I watched a video this week that shook me up. In a U.S. city two years ago, a group of Christians, wearing “Jesus” tee shirts and carrying signs about judgment and the lake of fire marched through cordoned-off streets during a Muslim festival.
Their presence provoked some of the festival’s attendees. It didn’t take long for the scene to turn nasty. The video showed the Christians being pelted with trash, eggs, even bits of concrete. And they were called filthy names. That disturbed me. But what disturbed me even more were the sign-carrying Christians who shouted out to festival goers: “Go home!”
In the past few months, like never before, I’ve prayed for the troubling events in our world. Especially for conflicts around the world involving Muslims, Christians, and Jews. I’ve prayed for God to transform the hearts of people who treat others with violence, cruelty, and hate. I’ve asked for mercy for the innocent people who are being persecuted. I’ve prayed, even, for God to bring justice to the cruelest of the evil doers.
But after seeing this video, I started praying for another group of people—I started praying for us.
How does God want us to respond when our Christian freedoms are threatened? When Christians around the world are being killed? When we, even in our “safe” home towns, start to see signs of opposition and persecution? Do we march? Threaten lawsuits? Warn of hell-fire judgment? Do we try to eliminate our enemies—if not by actually killing them, by trying to make them “go home”?
I tried to imagine what Jesus would do in a scene like I saw on the video. But I honestly couldn’t imagine Him there. I could imagine Him sitting with a foreign outcast by a well, telling her about life-giving water. I could see Him restraining His zealous disciples who wanted to call down fire to burn up an enemy town. But I could not picture Him angrily shouting at His foreign-born neighbors to “Go home!”
Dallas Willard taught me to ask the question, “What would Jesus do, if He were me?” It’s a better question than “What would Jesus do?” because Jesus was a young male Jew living in 1st-century Judea. He also happened to be the Son of God. I, on the other hand, am a middle-aged American woman living in the 21st-century. What Jesus would do is obviously different from what I can do. However, Jesus lives in me and wants to live through me. His life is now lived out through us, His church. So, what would Jesus do if He were one of us living in these troubling days?
It will probably take a while for that answer to fully come. But there are some things I think I can safely say. If Jesus were walking in my shoes He would . . .
- pray for people who hate Him and persecute Him. He would not pray for their destruction. Because God is not willing that anyone should perish, Jesus would pray for the salvation of His enemies.
- love His enemies. He’d give patient and reasonable responses to hateful words. He would forgive 70 times 7 times. He would offer tireless acts of kindness and self-giving compassion even (especially?) to people who didn’t deserve or appreciate them.
- welcome strangers and outcasts.
- live each day intentionally and sacrificially to bring glory to God.
- trust God and not be afraid.
The troubling events in our world today require a response from us. We can’t sit back passively, safe in our bubble, and think that it will not affect us. But we also can’t react out of fear, hate, self-protection, or revenge. None of those ways honor God. None have any chance of causing people to turn from darkness and come into the light.
I didn’t enjoy that video, but I’m grateful I saw it. God used it to direct me to pray in for people I hadn’t thought to pray for in the context of the crisis our world is in. He called me to pray for me, to pray for us. And here, in a nutshell, is my prayer: “Revive us, oh Lord!”