War. Jesus spoke pointedly to the disciples about their questions of the end times, including war:
‘Watch out that no-one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah”, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of the birth pains’ (Matthew 24:4-8).
From our vantage point on the southern curve of the planet, we have not seen war on Australian soil since Japanese bombers rained destruction on Darwin in World War II.
Generations have passed since that great and monstrous conflict and slowly, but surely, the understanding of war has diminished.
However, the fear of war perhaps has increased for many of us.
No-one is immune from the fear and the terror of war, but most people in Australia are insulated from the realities of it; the death and destruction and the torturous pain of loss has been left to other corners of the globe.
But we still hear about the war – and the rumours of the faceless conflict – against the undefeatable foe of terror.
Most Christians would like to say they deal with it in the way that they have been given – through prayer and meditation. In many cases this is the only course of action at hand.
But the truth of the matter is that even the Christian is not immune to the great sickness that sweeps across the planet like the pandemics of old, a spiritual tuberculosis that removes our breath and causes our hearts to seize in the fear this terror will engulf even Terra Australis.
And how do we know this? Because the other insipid malady that mows down large swathes of the western world is what I call ‘intellectual bulimia’.
We gorge ourselves on the news bites and sound bites from the array of screens in front of us. They tell us not only that the war is imminent but that death by terror is lurking behind every closed door.
The symptoms of ‘intellectual bulimia’ include the consumption of every piece of media, fake news or otherwise, and regurgitation of it as fact through whatever communication channels we use, all the while wondering if anyone else is as terrified as we are.
We digest nothing of what we consume with our eyes and we are left frantic with a spiritual hunger so deep that we are almost numb to it.
The terror has swallowed us.
But, in the midst of the abyss of terror, no different than the blackness that engulfed the Place of the Skull 2000 years ago, a light continues to shine from the empty tomb of fear.
Even though we understand that death has lost its power and its sting is but a pinprick in time, our hearts reverberate with the sound of the stone rolling away. The light that cannot be overcome, in this world or the next, annihilates blind fear.
As Paul writes to Timothy, ‘For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and discipline’ (2 Timothy 1:6,7).
This gift of God – which is a flame that shines light into the edges of a world bleeding profusely from the ravages of war – is yours and mine.
We have been given the opportunity to speak out against the injustice of humanity’s self-created terror and bring peace to a world that is perishing of starvation from it.
In view of the resurrection, what is there to fear? What is there to be afraid of? Can the darkest night bring a faceless terror to our homes, or does the gift of God, the Spirit-ignited flame, crush the darkness?
Has not Christ overcome?
In the joyous celebration of life in Christ,
Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel! (2 Timothy 1:8-10).
This Easter join with the entire world of believers and the communion of saints as we worship the one who has not only overcome death, sin and the devil, but also the one who has already won the war on terror.
Reid Matthias is Parish Team Pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Para Vista, in South Australia.
This feature story comes from The Lutheran April 2017. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.