A few weeks ago in a sermon, I recommended that Christians read the Bible with the newspaper open; and, when followers of Jesus read the news, which we should do, we do so with the Bible open. This is an attempt to demonstrate what I meant in that recommendation.
I was looking at the Saturday New York Times, pages A6-7. The following headlines grabbed me: “Syrian Talks, Ending First Round, Fail Even to Agree on Easing Aid Blockade; Indonesian Militants Join Foreigners in Syria; Abuse claims in Ukraine Rise among Protesters. In one photo, Ukrainian politician and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko leans over the hospital bed of a man who had claimed to have been tortured. Another picture shows the haze resting over the Syrian town of Aleppo right after it had been bombed.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars – Matthew 24:6a.
If Jesus was specifically referring to Rome’s inevitable conquest of Jerusalem, then it is not a perfect fit to call upon that text in reflection upon the violence and political upheaval in the world right now. But it is enough to note that our Lord, the one we call “Prince of Peace," was a giver of true peace. He did not, though, promise that violent conflict would disappear. Just the opposite; men would and do kill men. Nations destroy nations. People groups and religious factions seem bent on wiping each other out.
From the time humans were driven from Paradise (Genesis 3:24), sin has been a part of our existence and violence and war are one of the worst manifestations of sin. What’s happening in Syria and Ukraine and North Korea and Iraq and Egypt – in all these places it is sin. Sin is an unavoidable reality in the Biblical story. Sin screams in a thousand shrill voices from the pages of the newspaper.
In your own reading, you may not easily call to mind a specific passage like Matthew 24 or Genesis 3. But even if you read the paper and think and pray and still no scripture comes to mind, don’t be discouraged. Just working at it got you to think and pray. Keep at it – the reading of the Bible with the news in mind and the reading of the paper with your Bible open. After weeks and months, scriptures will come to mind. I promise. If they don’t, let me know. I’ll work at it with you.
The Bible story is relevant. We feel the relevance deeply when our reading, our prayer, and our media consumption are all intertwined.