Watching TV or reading the news feeds Friday afternoon and night into Saturday morning was like watching a reality show in which axes are sharpened. The hideous Paris attacks were the grinding wheel upon which everybody that has ever tried to make an immigration, intelligence, or defense point was placing their favorite axe. Of course as time moves forward and facts are determined with certainty it will narrow to only a few points, but in the immediate aftermath it was a cacophony.
Let me sum all of those points, and a few others, up for you into a tidy little package – “It ain’t working, this has to get better, something has to change.”
All the argument, all the discussion, all the panels and all the experts are disagreeing only on what has to change, not that change is necessary. And yet change is constant. New policies are made, old policies are recycled. Cabinet departments are shuffled. Troops are sent here, advisers there. Soon it will be time to change the entire lot as we elect a new administration.
I have no doubt that a new Republican administration will have a much better handle on this stuff than the current Democratic administration does, as did the Republican administration before the current one. But I am still afraid. We knew this stuff was possible and yet we elected the current administration – twice. We grew tired of the conflict and abandoned the battlefield. The result was not peace, it was instead that the battle came to us. We need something more than just a new administration with new people and new policies if we are really going to bring this sort of thing to an end.
And so my mind turned to a rarely quoted little speech by Jesus; one from The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 13, verses 1 through 5:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
That would be considered “old school” stuff in this day and age. Nobody wants to hear that word “repent.” Nelson’s Bible Dictionary says of repentance that it is, “a feeling of remorse or regret for past conduct.” It goes on to say ” True repentance is a “godly sorrow” for sin….” We don’t like remorse or regret or sorrow so we don’t like to hear about repentance.
And yet repentance is the difference between ineffective change and the kind of change that actually begins to address the issues at hand. Change for the sake of change, change that does not flow from repentance, is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We are way past that point – people are dying in very large quantities in very short periods of time. It is time for change that matters.
And so this Sunday morning I look squarely at Paris and I allow the remorse and regret and sorrow to overwhelm me and knock me to my knees. Once on my knees I pray with David as I did Friday night. But this morning’s prayer is a very different from Friday night’s. This one is too long to quote here in its entirety, but it begins:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
Please, pray the whole thing with me.