Our neighborhood is peaceful this evening. It is a cool fall evening and I write at a table in front of the widow of our upstairs bedroom. Occasionally a car purrs by. After it passes the sound of crickets returns.
The temperature is dropping tonight and the children are excited that there is talk of frost because they think that will hasten the turning of the leaves. I have read to the little boys and they are minutes from bed. Holly bathed little Hope and she is sleeping sweetly with a look of absolute security on her face. We have eaten well and enjoyed every comfort today. We are safe, secure and happy. All is well in our little world.
The rest of the family is watching yet another news report. The television programming is devoted totally to the terrorist tragedy that occurred last Tuesday morning in New York City and Washington D. C. Here in our small, peaceful community we felt secure and removed from the chaos and death in the smoldering metropolis. The images didn’t seem real. They were more like a bad movie than reality. Here in Fremont we are out of harm’s way. The stars are still all in their places in the vast night sky over our quiet community.
Last winter I attended a graduate school class in Chicago. While there I visited a huge bookstore overlooking the historic Water Tower on Michigan Avenue. An interesting title caught my eye. It was called “How to Move to A Small Town.” The picture on the dust jacket looked a lot like Main Street in Fremont. I imagined a harried city-dweller reading the book on his commute out of the city and planning a move to a town like ours.
I enjoy my occasional forays into the Windy City, but I always feel blessed to turn onto M-82 out at five-mile corner and know that I am a few miles from home. Within a few minutes I glance south at Mechanic and I am comforted at the sight of the cross, bathed in light, on the front of the church where I am the pastor. A few blocks more and I will pull into the parsonage driveway. Every light in the house will be on and people who love me will be waiting there to tell me all at once what they have been doing. They will want to hear all about my trip to the big city.
We cherish small town life but living in a small town like ours is no guarantee that we will be sheltered from the effects of man’s depravity. Eventually evil makes its way to every hamlet and every home because evil resides in a dark corner of every heart. The book of Romans puts it like this; “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and “there is none righteous, no not one.”
Occasionally we succumb to the illusion that only people who are different from us whose speech we find foreign and unusual are capable of evil. Or we focus on big evils and excuse smaller evils that lead to them. When this happens we need to be reminded that sin is a universal problem.
The morning after the chaos in New York City and Washington D. C. our own High School was surrounded by emergency vehicles– lights flashing.
“Bomb threat,” the firefighter said; “School is closed for the day.”
It was a local illustration of why evil is so difficult to eradicate. Someone said; “.the line that separates good from evil passes squarely through the center of every human heart.” And if evil is present in every heart it is present in every community.
Evil is a fact. It is a disease of the soul that is real, it’s universal, and it’s terminal. The Scriptures say; “the wages of sin is death.” Evil is not going away no matter how many barricades we erect, no matter how many security measures we take. That is one reason God has delegated authority to civil government to “bear the sword.” This is a legitimate God-given function of civil government. The civil ruler is “.God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4 NKJV)
Another function of government is to acknowledge our humble dependence upon Almighty God. Our founding fathers knew this and had the good sense to carve it into the granite of our public buildings. Lately foolish people have passed laws forbidding prayer in school, but when tragedy strikes lawmakers themselves go to prayer meeting and sing “God Bless America” with breaking voices and misty eyes. As a nation we have banned God from the public forum but we still want him close when we need his protection and comfort when we are threatened by evil.
Only a few survivors have been pulled from the rubble but dozens stories of human compassion are coming to the surface every day. The spirit of a country cannot be buried under the debris of collapsed buildings as long as people will humble themselves, acknowledge the sinfulness of their own hearts, and turn back to God through Christ Jesus the Lord. He alone is our refuge our strength and our very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
(from Stonebridge Newsletter – Number 51)