On November 14th, I woke up to a message from my friend, Nathalie, to our small group: “Hi Ladies. Please pray for France. Terrorist attacks in Paris overnight… The country was declared a state of emergency, the borders are closed. My family is okay but this is ridiculous.” Our group went on to pray and process together, asking why and how do we respond.
Nathalie is a speaker of Truth. She speaks truth into my life and challenges me to see God’s Word outside of my cultural lens, especially when it’s uncomfortable. Soon after the attacks in Paris, she was tasked for a class to write an article or blog about a passage that she studied.
She passed it along for me to read and after I did, the next time I read my Bible I thought about it differently – it’s not just something to read – especially those hard verses. It’s to be read and then acted on. I asked her if I could share her words here.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22-24)
The message is clear. Put the word of God in action, do not be content with just hearing it and end up fooling yourself that you are with God when you are not. However, I must admit that when I first studied this passage, I did not feel the weight of it. In many ways I thought it was an easy text to follow. That must point to the easy circumstances of my life, so I found myself glancing over it and moving on.
Then, Friday November 13 happened and terrorists decided to slaughter as many people as they could in Paris, the capital of my country. Currently across the world, I woke up, confused, to several messages asking if I was in Paris and an email from my mum to tell me that though she was in the city she was safe. I spent the next few hours waiting to hear from one of my brothers and several friends I knew were there while catching up on the horrifying news. Thankfully, I am not among those who have lost loved ones and yet, I was devastated. It made me angry that people could believe murder was good and that there were people actually rejoicing over the success of this terrorist act. It broke my heart to be reminded again that humans are capable of the most atrocious acts and that considering the spiritual state of France, the chance of the victims being with Christ are slim. It made me scared because there is no way I can prevent it from happening again and that means my family and so many others are at risk.
So, in the middle of the chaos and confusion I am not sure what to do. Yet, God is clear, “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” Though I am angry and all I want is revenge and to inflict the same pain that was inflicted, the word of God says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Though I am afraid that other attacks will happen and that they will steal time my family and others might need to get to know Christ, the word of God says “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1a) and “do not be anxious about anything” (Phil 4:6a). And though I am sad and do not understand, the word of God says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov 3:5).
Being a doer of the word is not easy, especially when my flesh screams out, “I don’t want to!” But the Bible is clear, not putting the word of God in practice leads to self-deception. On the other hand, James 1:25 says “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
So when the time comes to do the word when the circumstances make it so hard, I bow my head and pray to ask the Almighty for help. I ask Him to give me the grace to love the people I want to hate. Even though my heart might beat frantically in fear I ask Him to give me the peace that comes only from knowing Him. When all I see is evil I ask Him to help me trust and cling to Him. And every time I fail I look again to Christ and thank God for Him and the evil He endured for my sake. Faithful as He is, He gives me the strength to fight my sin and be a doer of the word a little better, promising that in obedience comes blessing.