A word for this weekend posted on Saturday morning: "'In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.' When you are tempted to fear and anxiety about anything turn to prayer. Do not react in fear. This applies to any reaction to yesterday's events in France and any future terror. When we know Jesus there is never any cause for panic. God has been teaching me this again in the last few months and it is true. Christians need to be teaching and preaching this as they gather... Watch your reactions and repent if you are speaking or repeating words of fear or self-protection."----------
On Friday night and Saturday morning I heard and read many concerns from people about the terror attacks in France. I've been interacting some on social media about this, reminding my friends and acquaintances about the danger of reacting in fear. God has given me a new perspective on this that I'm trying to share here today. I am praying specifically that we would not be overcome by any fear.
It's a Sunday morning in Roseville. I'm still working "part time weekdays" so weekends mean something. Two days off in a row! That wouldn't be true if I ever went to full time.*
Just before 6:00 on Friday, between my two PM routes, I stopped in at the Minneapolis "Downtown Market" (on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street, just NW of the main post office). Since I've been dropping in there on an almost daily basis (Monday-Friday) since mid July, I've gotten to know a couple of the employees. One in particular, who calls me his friend, is from Iraq. He is there right now to visit his brother and other extended family members. Most of the employees there are from the middle east, I think also from Iraq. In any case, they speak Arabic amongst themselves.
While I was there someone stopped me and another Metro Transit driver as we were talking together in the lobby/hallway to tell us about the Paris terrorist attacks. We don't have any way of hearing the news on our buses so that's the first we'd heard. He thought we should warn our customers. It sounded as if he thought something similar could happen here that night! We told him that we do keep an eye out for anything suspicious. It's a part of our training to watch and report. Bus drivers have eyes out in almost every corner of the metro area.
Later, on the bus, a customer came forward and said something about the attack. Then, when I got back to the Heywood Garage drivers' room, and after I got done talking with others about a different subject, I saw that the television there was tuned to the coverage from Paris. Some conversation was going on there too among the very diverse group of drivers watching. I've gotten to know them well enough to know at least one is a devout Muslim.
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I'm thankful that God has provided me with this new job where there are automatic opportunities to get to know people of different backgrounds. Many who read this blog would need to go out of your way to have those interactions. I'd like to challenge you to do that soon.
Going back to what happened on Friday night, when I got home I heard more on the news and read people's reactions. The note of fear I picked up from the first man who told us about the attacks was repeated by others, particularly on the internet. I thought I needed to respond in some way so I made one simple comment. Later, I wrote the item you'll see at the top of this post.
I get the fear people have and I understand and support the need to protect those who are vulnerable. I understand that nations have responsibilities to keep people safe. But the idea that Christians should mostly retreat and protect is not something I see to be in harmony with God's plan or God's Word.
The most clear evidence of this is what we know through Jesus Christ, who came with open arms into the midst of strangers. Jesus lived and loved among human beings who were so filled with prejudices and sins and so dedicated to protecting themselves that they killed him.
Human beings are so concerned about safety and stability that we throw love under the bus! Jesus shows a different way. Will we follow him, or will we retreat?
I believe God would have us reach out instead of backing away. The Holy Spirit burns in me about this. I very much appreciate the work of groups such as "Arrive Ministries" (see video below) that encourages us to "celebrate that God has brought the nations to our doorstep and to welcome into our lives new refugee neighbors who have overcome persecution, trauma and years of struggle." I can't say whether that particular ministry is the one God is calling you to interact with, but we need to get connected in some way.
I think that unless we have personal experience with people who are different than we are, our first reaction when we hear bad news involving those "different ones" is to retreat and protect ourselves. I believe God would have us do something very different. I hope you'll talk about that today at your church.
How will you reach out? How will you put yourself in contact with others? Even taking a ride on the bus could be a way doing that. Give me a call and I can let you know how. I'll also introduce you to my friends at the Downtown Market if you'd like.
I have so much more to learn. I am praying that I will be open to just how God will move me to reach out in these days.
Now is the Time- Arrive Ministries from Bob Oehrig on Vimeo.
*See my "Contentment" post from October 28 about part time versus full time work for Metro Transit.