A young man becomes religious. He sees sin occurring. He becomes enraged. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. He kills in God’s name.
It’s an old story. In fact, the towering figures of both the Old and New Testaments did exactly this.
Moses was a Hebrew, but he grew up as a privileged son of the Pharaoh. One day he witnessed an Egyptian beating a kinsman. In a fit of anger Moses killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand.
The Apostle Paul was a young religious expert. He served as the coat-check boy at the stoning of Stephen. He saw Christ-followers perverting his faith – and made it his personal mission to threaten or kill any follower of Jesus.
Young men still make this error today. It starts when a man says to himself four fateful words: God needs my help.
God desires our obedience. He never asks for our assistance.
Over time both Moses and Paul were changed – Moses by his exile, and Paul by his conversion. Instead of taking matters into their own hands they learned to be patient – and allow God’s power to flow through them.
In his own power, Moses killed one Egyptian. But through God’s power Moses defeated the entire nation of Egypt.
In his own power, Paul defended religion with violence. But through God’s power Paul subdued the Roman empire – and changed the course of Western civilization.
Christianity is built upon the notion of God’s sovereignty. He is ultimately in control. This is why Christians don’t riot when God is mocked in a cartoon, or when people turn their backs on the teachings of scripture. We believe in a God who is fair and merciful – and who will one day settle all accounts. (This is not to say Christians must become pacifists or sit idly by while evil occurs. But it does rule out the kind of deluded vigilantism we witnessed in Orlando this weekend).
There is a fine line between serving God in His power and our own. Fortunately, most Christians (and most Muslims, for that matter) stay on the proper side of that line.
But some do not. If you ever tell yourself, “God needs my help” — you may have already crossed that line.