Lamenting What is Truly Lamentable
July 14, 2015 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: Theology
Another report of senseless violence last month in our 24-hour news cycle. Nine people dead, just like that, while attending a Bible study at their church in Charleston, S.C. A hateful barrage of lead and brass taking out nine imago dei by another, yes, imago dei. These acts of evil jolt us in the midst of our rather ordinary lives. We’re speechless. Or, if we do choose to say something, it falls dismally short of the condemnation that such an act deserves.
Perhaps because it’s closer to home we at least stop to listen to the details of what happened, the profile and background of the executioner, racial and social implications, swift maneuverings by elected officials for political gain. Perhaps even an interest in what an “AME” church is in the stream of Christian denominations. This is in such sharp contrast to the daily news cycle that reports numerous deaths every day in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. It’s reported that at least 220,000 civilians have died in Syria alone in that horrific civil war (many tortured to death in Syrian Torture Centers) and thousands in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Think about how many fellow believers in Christ have been brutalized and killed in this mass pool of those who are “disposable.” In this maelstrom of evil. That’s not to mention the unspeakable mass beheadings and other lethal atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against Kurdish, Iraqi, or Coptic Christians and Muslims alike who stand in their way.
And, yet, these “distant murders” seem to take on a banality about them. Does the persecution and murder of brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever it occurs, jolt us in North America? The violence against Christian or non-believer? Of course, no one can read another’s heart. So, perhaps folks in North American evangelical churches do grieve over all this continued death and carnage elsewhere in the world. Who’s to say? It just doesn’t appear to be spoken about very much. It doesn’t seem to receive the lamenting it demands.
Lament is one of those biblical words that has become limited to “in-house” expression among the faithful. For some it may have the ring of Judaic-Christian lingo. It’s archaic. Dusty. Relegated to the formal. However, in the Bible lament or lamentation is charged with emotion and meaning. Some verbal synonyms for the contemporary reader are mourn, grieve, sorrow, wail, weep, cry, or sob. It also suggests such things as protesting against, object to, oppose, denounce. The noun lamentation means an expression of regret or disappointment. A complaint, even. A third of the 150 Psalms are considered laments.
Yet, it’s not one of those words freighted with the content it once conveyed for the contemporary Christian. It’s one of those “religious words.” Be that as it may, God has packed the emotion of lament with all the literal and nuanced meaning for the faithful; meanings that reflect deep grief and express whispered or shouting regret. Moreover, disappoint over an event or situation considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, unfair, unjust. Evil. That’s what essentially propels lament in the Bible. It’s meant to capture the believer, personally and wherever and whenever it manifests itself in a broken world.
It seems, though, that a tragic event occurring close to home can open our eyes to the larger picture of evil and death in our fractured world. All that is truly lamentable. We need to lament for those close to home for sure—for those of the “household of faith” as well as those outside of Christ’s church. That’s normal. It’s closer and more threatening. Cold water is thrown into our routine faces while we’re walking out the door. Humdrum comes to a screeching halt inside of us. Then it’s followed by the din of a drum vibrating evil rhythms intruding upon the ordinariness of life; at least in this part of the world. The urgency of prayers for the grief-stricken in Charleston cries out. Even while they themselves display the Christ-molded forgiveness as the rhythm of evil is still ripping away at the rawness of their emotions.
The question for the Christian is this: Am I personally affected by the irrationality of evil and death close to home and everywhere else it rears its ugly head? Do I lament the evil generated sin-acts against God’s imago dei as Jesus has instructed us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)? The blessed promise is knowing the reality behind it while being called to lament this broken world that will one day be fixed, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 NIV)
Meanwhile, there are vital questions that need to be self-imposed based upon what is lamentable to God, such as “What do I consistently lament? Who and what do I have sorrow for? What am I mostly disappointed about? And what part of these things is integral to my prayers to God?”
Murderous evil on Main Street America or on the dusty roads of other countries demands that we lament what is truly lamentable, undergirded by the healthy theology of God’s written Word.
Mark Galli has said it well, "Still, the moment of lament is the moment to rethink what we believe, and to adopt the radically realistic ethic of Jesus, who has no illusions about the power of evil.” (Mark Galli, Editor, Christianity Today)
For those who die for the sake of the Gospel, and those who do not know Christ, Jesus asks us to be honest about what concerns us and if it aligns with what concerns Him--what He laments about.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.