Stunned, I sat listening to an African American brother in Christ explain that last weekend, near the area in Chicago where he grew up, 104 Blacks were shot—almost exclusively by other Blacks—and 14 died. As our conversation concluded, his remarks piqued my interest: “Where is Black Lives Matter now? Why are there no protests over these 14 deaths? Do Black lives only matter if whites kill them?” I departed reflecting on these questions, the turmoil present in so many of our nation’s cities today, and took some time to survey what we have seen so far in 2020.
The year began with President Trump’s impeachment dominating the news cycle. On the heels of his acquittal, Nancy Pelosi tore up his State of the Union Address on national television. By mid-March, America was in a State of National Emergency because of widespread sickness and mounting deaths due to the coronavirus. Within weeks the strongest U.S. economy on record was teetering with millions of Americans suddenly unemployed and in need of government assistance to pay the bills. Less than a month after the initial spike of COVID cases in the U.S., police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on video, igniting race riots not seen in our nation since Martin Luther King’s assassination. Subsequently, America’s history was declared shameful resulting in the toppling and defacing of statues in dozens of cities.
Encountering one crisis after another over the last six months begs the question, “What is going on?” Why is all this chaos taking place? Providing a timeless answer to questions like these, Christian author and apologist Ravi Zacharias shared this principle years ago: “When God is absent, chaos is the norm.”
One of the many benefits of drawing near to God is that He will also draw near to us and will replace chaos with shalom (2 Chr. 15:1–15). Shalom is peace that originates in God and goes beyond diminishing conflict and turmoil. It is a peace that comes from God’s immediate presence upon humanity and includes experiencing the world as He created it to be. It is the reality of His presence and goodness throughout culture.
Secular organizations such as Black Lives Matter and The United Way, as well as government programs and institutions, cannot lead us into this kind of goodness and relational health; nor will the public-school system or higher education. God’s people are the only ones who can lead culture into this reality.
As we consider what Ravi Zacharias describes as the “absence of God” and the increasing, persistent, unsettling chaos that is confronting our nation, Scripture is our guide to know how to make an invitation to God to return. This invitation will need to include an admission of what we have done to distance ourselves from Him; a resolute commitment to see His will accomplished in our personal lives and nation, a hunger for His holy presence, and a determination to replace widespread cultural lies with His truth on every matter. This is the beginning of a journey toward experiencing shalom.
As we set forth this invitation for God’s glorious presence to return, let’s remember that the inverse of Ravi’s statement is also true: When God is in our midst, peace will be the norm.