If you’ve had the privilege of visiting Washington, D.C., and had the courage to ride the subway which is know as the Metro, you will recognize the familiar phrase repeated thousands of times daily: “See Something, Say Something.” It’s a cautionary reminder to the seasoned riders who seem unattached to who may be sitting beside them, as well as those adventuring into the unknown world of subway explorations whose ever-wandering eyes try to capture every detail. The simple words are designed to keep all riders alert for anything that may seem unusual, and therefore a possible danger and threat to everyone’s safety. Since the Metro is my preferred method of D.C. transportation, along with walking, I will say there are many unusual sights aboard the train, and so the challenge is deciding what may represent a real threat.
On April 15, 2013, at approximately 2:49 p.m., the first of two explosions occurred close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon where some 23,000 runners participated and thousands more had gathered to watch. Three innocent people were murdered while more than 260 people who began their day with plans to enjoy the famous outdoor event were injured. Authorities report Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lowered his prepared weapon of mass destruction backpack to the ground at the feet of the innocent while cowardly distancing himself from the imminent explosion.
There are troubling questions surrounding this tragedy and it seems the investigation continues to reveal new depths of involvement, higher levels of ineptitude among those entrusted to protect the innocent, and a disregard of those simple words: See something, say something. Let’s look to the Scriptures for insight, which can help us respond in a Biblically sound way while preparing us to further prevent the death of the innocent on our streets.
The first “city” mentioned in Genesis was called a garden and its citizens were charged by God with two primary responsibilities. Genesis 2:15 states, “The Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (NAS). The Hebrew words for cultivate and keep educate us on what the original man was to do, as well as equip us on what we are to do as believers living in the 21st century. The word cultivate is translated Abad, which means to work and therefore develop or bring something into a more productive state. The word keep is translated Shamar, which means to guard and therefore to keep safe. In any setting where people live and interact, their success in “cultivating” is dependent on their effectively “keeping” or “guarding” from whatever may threaten peace, safety and a productive state of mind.
When Adam and Eve, the original ones who walked with God and had been given the responsibility to be good citizens of their community or garden, failed to guard it from danger, there was a shift in their assignment. They were exiled from the garden and told to cultivate or develop the ground while the angels were now assigned to guard the garden (Genesis 3:23-24). If we fail to protect that which God has given us to watch over and develop, we are held responsible. This is a Kingdom principle that we must understand and teach, so as leaders, we are training people who are both spiritually responsible and naturally productive.
Ray Sutton says, “To protect is a priestly function. A priest was fundamentally a guardian of the presence of the Lord” (1). I Peter 2:5 states we are called to be priests and therefore protectors of what God has assigned us to watch over. Can it be that one reason why violence escalates is due to bad theology and teachers who train believers to spend themselves on strictly personal spiritual development while abdicating their role as priests who watch over the family, community and the culture? These pseudo preachers then cite escalating violence as a sign of the times we are living in to mysteriously imply Jesus will reward those who disobey His word to protect and guard with the ultimate payoff, His second coming. With the recent emphasis in the Church on the Ecclesia, we can pray and diligently work in hopes this teaching will turn the eyes of the saints back to Jesus and His eternal Word, which began with two simple charges — cultivate and guard the city where He placed us.
Given the blurred lines of jurisdictional authority and responsibility between the state and the church, something needs to be communicated here as a warning to the people of God. The Scripture is clear that the principle of division of labor is God-ordained and productive for all involved. Man can’t fulfill his role of maturing and cultivating our cities without practicing division of labor. Our families and businesses will not be peaceful and profitable if we blur the lines of whose responsibility it is to do what. With that brief introduction, and in light of the Boston bombings, we seem to be content with entrusting the role of guarding on a local level to the state and its agencies.
Accounts in the media are clear our government knew the possibility of evil the murderous brothers could carry out, and yet they were able to detonate two weapons of mass destruction on our streets. The people, and especially the believing community, must not leave the job of watching, guarding and keeping our cities safe to the state. The Boston bombings can be another cultural wake up call if we will respond. Without speaking from a critical motivation, we must understand the civil authorities can’t do this job without help. This presents an awakened Church with a God opportunity to serve our cities and fellow citizens, thereby restoring peace to our streets and ultimately being obedient to God.
Romans 13 states the role of the civil ruler is to punish the evildoer. There are those we describe as “evil with no conscience.” While only the civil ruler can punish them with a just sentence, may justice be swift, thorough and decisive. May the Church have clarity in her thinking concerning those who carry out evil with no conscience. Gary North helps us in his book Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus regarding capital punishment. He says, “Capital punishment points to the final judgment as no other civil penalty does. The civil government acknowledges that its most fearful form of punishment is to speed convicted criminals along into the courtroom of the cosmic Judge. The magistrate announces that there is no way to restore the convicted criminal to fellowship in earthly society” (2). This will honor God’s word and hopefully deter others from such actions.
We close with a few brief summary thoughts and application points:
- If we fail to guard our gardens, we will never govern them.
- Communities are groaning for the Church to be what God called us to be.
- May this wake up call be effective and the Church respond by working together in our cities to form “watch groups” who not only pray onsite at high profile community events that may be terrorist targets, but also deploy teams who will guard, protect and keep.
- May the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led people of God step up to a higher level of functioning where they know of an evil attack in advance and can divert it through prayer and intervention.
- Every person can practice and train others to practice those simple words heard on the Washington, D.C., Metro: See something, Say something!