A few days ago, I drove down Franklin heading to a training session with an organization that I do some work with on the side (yes, in addition to my already BUSY life). As I neared my destination, something disturbing and frankly scary caught my attention. Up against the side of a building I saw maybe a half a dozen guys pinned and being held by cops. There were several lined up with hands behind their backs facing the wall, one or two were in similar positions on the ground. At least one of the cops had his gun out and was aiming in the direction of the man on the ground and sirens rang out as other cop cars drew closer to the area.
I turned the corner and parked my car. I sat for a moment debating whether or not I should get out, well because my meeting was on the same street where all of this drama was unfolding. As I composed myself, I remembered that the entrance to the building wasn’t on the corner and so felt a little better about getting out and going in. A little. I got out of the car, locked my doors and walked as fast as my little heels could carry me. I rang the doorbell on the intercom and was let immediately in. Once I was in and the door closed behind me, I breathed a sigh of relief and walked up the stairs to where the training was being held.
When I exited the building nearly three hours later, images from the scene I had seen just hours before hadn’t yet left my head. I moved quickly to my car, got in and sped off, once again thankful that I wasn’t caught up in any of the shenanigans that took place at that intersection that evening. Driving I thought about the peace of God – His shalom reigning and abiding in that place. What would that look like? While I am not completely sure, especially since I don’t know who did what or what party (the cops or the guys) was at fault, I do know that God’s shalom would have brought about a completely different atmosphere. God’s shalom would’ve brought about justice, restoration, and wholeness in a way that no amount of law enforcement can conjure up. Instead of guns and other weaponry, His shalom abides – righting wrongs and reconciling warring entities in the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Understanding the power of God’s shalom, we as believers ought to pray for it. We should pray for God’s presence and authority to reign over the systems of this world and ask Him to take complete control. Jesus hints at this in teaching the disciples how to pray – thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. The fullness of God’s kingdom brings about shalom. In His kingdom, there are no more tears, no more hunger, no more famine, no more war, no more violence, no more hatred or division across racial, ethnic or gender lines.
The reality is that we live in between the tension of the inauguration of the kingdom of God and the fullness of it. Jesus’ death brought about its inception and His return will usher in its completion. While this is true, I believe that real problem we struggle with is that we give too much credit, rule and authority to the enemy. We interpret Matthew 4 wrong, thinking that this world’s domain really does belong to Satan – all these things I will give you if you fall down and worship me. But lest we forget, Satan has always thought too highly of himself. The world, and for that matter, the city is not his; it has and will always belong to God! Yes, the fall complicated a lot of things, but let’s not get confused – God is still running things! This is God’s domain, and so we should pray accordingly, not leaving room for the enemy to dominate spaces that are not his. Instead, in prayer and proclamation, we affirm the truth of God’s Word and the sovereignty of God over all things.
On a broader level, we would do well to understand that this is not a battle between good and evil, or God and Satan. Thinking so, we end up giving ‘good’ the same power that we do ‘evil,’ and we ascribe the same power to God that we do to the enemy. We sit back and wait, watching to see who/what will win at the end of the day. Will the bad guys win? Will racism completely destroy our communities? Will our children die from hunger and poverty, and our sons from random encounters with guns? Will we lose the battle for biblical justice and reconciliation? Will God lose? No! No, that is not how the story goes. In the thick of chaos it may seem like these things dominate, but they are no match before a mighty, awesome and holy God.
The chaos present in the city, and in other communities across this world, is no match before God. In fact, if we understand what God means about His kingdom, we will likewise understand that God is in the process of remaking, rebuilding His city, His world. He invites us to be a part of it through prayer, acts of justice, advocacy and solidarity. When we comprehend this, we will likewise begin to appreciate the inherent beauty, goodness, and love that is present and will not feel threatened by the chaos. We speak to it, and in God’s own timing, He makes it new.