Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. Proverbs 24, verse 16.
Last week, this was about how our ‘house’ is stalked by outlaws who want to do us wrong; remember that verse 15 says, “Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house, do not raid his dwelling place.” Like other verses we’ve shared, these two are married for good reason. Though they read well separately, they are together for a purpose. As a personal aside, I have long thought that this is one of the reasons that ‘proves’ the fact of scripture instead of just the faith in it, namely that I know of no other body of writing where sections and sentences can be parsed and broken down yet still hold both consistency and clarity. Try parsing the Gettysburg Address and you’re left with incomplete thoughts. Ditto for the Communist Manifesto and anything written by Al Gore, Stephen King or me. But I digress.
Taking the verses as a complete message, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one talks about violation of the dwelling place (spirit) of the righteous and then how the righteous will rise from such attacks while the attackers suffer. Complete, done, finished; the message is done. Of course I’m not…
…I’m not done because I want to tie this to my friend Patrick’s message from church yesterday. As a lead-in to worship, he mentioned how these are days of darkness in our culture. Specifically, he briefly talked about the recent bombing in Norway, then the senseless death of Amy Winehouse. Neither of these things needed to happen. The neo-Nazi nut in Norway published 1500 pages of screed that could have tipped someone off to his intentions, but we (as humanity) seemed unable to stop him, unable or unwilling to do anything about the warning signs. Amy Winehouse was a walking time bomb of addiction and self-destruction. That her life ended in those things is not a surprise, but surely it is as much of a tragedy as any death.
Let’s get something straight, though. The 90+ people murdered in Oslo weren’t wicked. I wouldn’t even say Amy Winehouse was wicked (though addicted, disturbed, and possessed might apply). Patrick’s point was that their lives were examples of the darkness in our world. Outlaws of the mind must have plagued Ms. Winehouse in her desperate, drug-addled existence. Outlaws of the soul must have tortured this extreme left wing nut to slaughter so many innocent people. Were they wicked? No comment and no judgment from me on that point, yet their actions were certainly wicked. One murder, one overdose/suicide: that’s wickedness to me. They were brought down by calamity, much of it self-embraced.
Patrick then challenged us to be weapons of light. That’s a phrase that stuck with me all day. Are you a weapon of light? Christ is the light of the world; He said so and proved it. To believe in Him allows you to share in His light that is love, truth, goodness and hope. To believe in Him empowers you with patience and boldness, confidence and grace. The antidote to the hopelessness of Oslo and Amy is light. The cure for the common evil is Jesus. Am I naively saying that if someone had shared a little more of Christ with these misdirected souls, then everything would have turned out ok? Yes, I am…but only to a point. The message is only half of what’s needed. An open heart is the other.
And when a heart is open ground to receive the fertile, nourishing message, then a heart is ripe to be made righteous. A righteous man can get knocked down but will have the inner fortitude to fight back. A righteous man will do what is required to fight on. A righteous man knows himself and from where his real strength comes. A righteous man can be struck and struck again, an infinite amount of times even, and he will still rise to the occasion. That’s the point where the verse and my friend’s sermon intersect. The light makes us righteous and resilient, and it is the light that enables us to rise again.
This morning I turned on the TV to find more bad news. An abusive, distraught father murdered five people at a roller rink here in North Texas before killing himself. What kind of evil possesses someone to do such a thing? And according to the AP, two Southern California men charged with severely beating a San Francisco Giants fan face a judge for the first time today. Why? Over in Arkansas, a Muslim fanatic is being examined by psychiatrists for his murder of two people outside a military recruiting station in 2009. Again, why? I say the answer is fairly simple, and it’s the one my friend preached about yesterday. Knowing that, I say that when we let ourselves become servants and weapons of light, we become justified by His love and we are enabled to stand up and face again the trials of petty evil. Perhaps a weapon of light could have confronted the terrorist in Oslo and framed a different path; perhaps with some light, Ms. Winehouse would still be alive. We will never know because both succumbed to the petty evils in the world. Whether we like it or not, we have to face them every day in an increasingly dark culture where that darkness is embraced instead of shone bare with true light. Thank God He gives us the weapon of choice to do so.