One of the great things about working in education is experiencing first hand the excitement of a new school year. Yes, I know not everyone is enthusiastic about summer’s end, but generally speaking, the buzz of a new year and a fresh start is invigorating. For some however, many events of this past summer cast a dim shadow on the future. I wrote the following article specifically for the Chattanooga Christian School community following the tragic events in Chattanooga on July 16, but I believe the theme of the article applies to all of us, particularly those us serving students and families in Christian schools.
Christians are going to look increasingly peculiar in our increasingly post-Christian culture. This fact can illicit a variety of emotions and responses that point to or from the hope we claim in a triune God who has proclaimed his sovereign work to make all things new by bringing his Kingdom to pass. His promise that “He will be our God and we will be His people” is as faithful today as it was in the time of Abraham. As we prepare to stand in front of our students and bear witness to the great love and authority of King Jesus, we should carefully consider how our verbal and non-verbal testimony communicates real hope, or lack thereof, in the centrality of Christ and his completed work. If we are truly concerned about Biblical integration, we ought to evaluate our effectiveness in this regard as diligently as we evaluate our curriculum maps and instructional practice.
My hope is that these words are both an encouragement and admonishment as we all stand at the intersection of lament and hope.
Chattanooga is a remarkable city!
The tragic shootings that took the lives of five servicemen on July 16, 2015 and altered the lives of their families forever will leave an indelible mark on Chattanooga. It is difficult to imagine the torment of those directly involved, those who witnessed the horrific events, the first responders, and the families who lost loved ones. Heartfelt grief and sadness for all involved and their families remain at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers. By all accounts, heroism was on full display from first responders who were squarely in harms way. I am one of many Chattanoogans who are blessed beyond measure by the sacrificial service of our military, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel. Our hearts are broken by these senseless acts of violence but our resolve to unite and strengthen the city we love runs deep.
The images of #noogastrong have begun to lift the spirits of a city still wrapped in lament. The vision of diverse people uniting to pray for, support and encourage the families most deeply affected by this tragedy inspires us all to consider anew what good can come from such difficult circumstances. The strength of Chattanooga stands at the intersection of deep lament and emerging hope.
As proud as I am to be one of many residents of Chattanooga who stands at that intersection, I fear we are asking too much of this great city, it’s great people and our great country for that matter. Our city is one of many across America that have suffered this type of tragedy, endured the unimaginable, and grown stronger. The fact that many cities have experienced our sorrow is but one indication that the world in which we live is in desperate need of reconciliation and renewal. Romans 8:19-25 illuminates the groaning of all creation as we await the full consummation of redemption and adoption. Revelation 21:1-7 promises that our groaning and waiting will not be in vain. Present at the intersection of lament and hope is a Savior who nourishes us with a confidence and strength much greater than the greatest this remarkable city has to offer.
We serve a Savior, King who humbled himself and took the full weight of our sin to the cross, conquered death in his resurrection and ascended in full honor and power at the right hand of God the father. Jesus IS King and IS making all things new!
The tragedy in Chattanooga on July 16, 2015 and several events and decisions of the past couple months have driven Christians to outwardly and inwardly lament, often in the words of Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus!” This lament is understandable and appropriate but we must consistently and carefully consider the importance of expressing it in the full hope of Revelation 21:5-6. This world needs to see the hands and feet of the body of Christ engaged in society and culture as ministers of reconciliation while placing our full confidence in Christ, the Alpha and Omega, and his reconciling work already accomplished. While this great city and its great people stand at the intersection of lament and hope, Jesus reigns at this intersection, equipping his bride, the Church, even in suffering, to represent him and his kingdom vividly to a world desperate for the healing and restoring grace only he can provide.
I have wondered many times over the past several days what our children see in us as we stand at the intersection of lament and hope. My prayer is that they see not finger-pointing individuals serving their own expectations of comfort and prosperity, but that they see the body of Christ, Church-centered, cross-bearing, united, humble, repentant and confident of this: that Jesus is a living King who IS making this broken world new. And through this that they will claim, with us, a citizenship not of this world but of the kingdom of God where one day he will dwell with us and “he will wipe aware every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning, nor crying nor pain anymore.”
Then they will see an intersection where people, even in lament, celebrate the strength of a great city and its great people but place their complete confidence and trust in a sovereign, gracious God who is redeeming a creation that groans and waits patiently for its full glorification to come.
What a remarkable intersection that would be!