The Gospel and Lamenting

Copy of Misrepresenting the GospelYesterday morning I wrote a post. Then I turned on the news and saw what happened to Alton Sterling. This morning I woke with the thought that maybe I should hold off on my post. Then I turned on the news, saw what happened Philando Castile, and knew that I needed to write something different.

My friend and fellow Westbrook pastor Caleb Trimble preached this last weekend about the Gospel and lamenting. It was almost prophetic that he should choose to focus on lamenting as he preached through Acts 16. If you have the time, you should go and listen to it.

He spoke about how often times we view the “good news” of the Gospel as being happy news. We picture Paul and Silas having been beaten and now in chains singing how Jesus is their friend. While it’s true that Jesus is our friend, it’s also true that Paul being a Jew and familiar with the Psalms may have been singing songs of lament. Listen to what Psalm 13 says:

How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
How long will You look the other way?
How long must I agonize,
grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?
Turn back; respond to me, O Eternal, my True God!
Put the spark of life in my eyes, or I’m dead.
My enemies will boast they have beaten me;
my foes will celebrate that I have stumbled.
But I trust in Your faithful love;
my heart leaps at the thought of imminent deliverance by You.
I will sing to the Eternal,
for He is always generous with me. [1]

Paul and Silas, like David often does in the Psalms, may have been singing these songs of lament. To many of us this seems strange. Our thoughts of Christian music may be like the Christian radio stations that we listen to: positive and uplifting. Scripture, however, is filled with songs that cry out, “How long, oh Lord?” and “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

We need to lament. It seems sacrilegious to many of us to ask “God, where are you?” or “How long until you fix this, God?” You might say, “But of course God is with us and he fixed it with Jesus on the Cross,” but that’s not why we lament.  It is a true confession of our feelings. It is us turning to God recognizing that the world is still broken and that we are waiting on Christ’s return. It is the church mourning with those who mourn and asking God to bring justice to this unjust world. The Gospel is presented to a broken world and, as Caleb reminded me this weekend, it’s not until we see the brokenness that we can truly offer the good news.

So today we should lament. Let us cry out to God and ask how long. Let us mourn with those who mourn and confess that we have not mourned with those who have been mourning a long time. We lament the loss of life and ask God to bring justice. And, like the Psalmist, we will continue to trust in His faithful love.

[1] The Voice Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2012), Psalm 13.

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