Posted in ecclesiology & sacraments, reflections

Running toward evil

Firefighers ascend the World Trade Center on 9-11-01
Firefighers ascend the World Trade Center on 9-11-01

We’re far enough away from the celebration of the 15th annivesary of the destruction of the Twin Towers to reflect on some of its lessons. There is one image that inspires me most: First responders ran toward the evil, not away from it. As people descended the stairs of the World Trade Center, firefighters ascended, not unlike police who run toward the sound of gunfire, not away from it.

This is a useful metaphor of how the church at her best should operate. When we see systemic evil, should we not run toward it, by our presence carrying the light of the Gospel into the darkest of places? Yesterday I listened to a paper presented by a pastor. His topic was corruption in society and how the church can respond in ways to weaken corruption’s grip. In the African nation where this pastor lives, raising his voice too loudly can have consequences, but he has decided it is better to run toward evil with Gospel light than run away and let the darkness deepen.

But it’s not just Africa that needs light. As Americans, have we romaticized rural areas as “God’s country” while avoiding large cities as if they are under the curse? Now as the drug epidemic impacts small villages and towns, it’s only reluctantly that we’ve admitted the problem is not geography but the human heart. If we invite believers to run toward cities it’s not that rural areas don’t count. It’s only that cities have more people whose hearts need the transforming work of God’s grace. Cities set the moral pace for a nation at-large, so it makes sense that we as Christ followers would want to live there, showing another way to live, a better way, a loving way, a Kingdom of God way.

Too often when I’ve known I should run towards evil, like Jonah, I’ve run in the opposite direction. Yet God’s question to the prophet still rings in my ears: “Should I not be concerned”? Let me be like those 9-11 first responders, going in when all the world is going out.




Greg is interested in many topics, including theology, philosophy, and science.

2 thoughts on “Running toward evil

  1. Greg,

    Your thought is poignant in today’s ministry context–not only here, but I would suspect in a good share of the world.

    People flock to the cities. The cities hold the most economic opportunity for jobs, for housing, for education. Unfortunately, they also hold the most opportunity for all of the negative consequences of sinful behavior. In Chicago alone this year, the homicide total has surpassed 500. To put it in perspective, this is far more deaths than the US military has experienced in Afghanistan in any calendar year dating back well over a decade.

    Equally unfortunately, the church has tended to flee the cities, including the Nazarene church. In the large city where I live, we have closed more churches in recent years than we’ve opened. Our strongest church numerically within the city limits runs a little over 100 in worship. While pockets of ethnic ministry are starting to flourish, there is much work to do. Why not an emphasis in our day, much like the church did many years ago called “Thrust to the Cities?”

    1. So true, Dave – and the BGS has been talking a lot about reaching the cities. I think there is at least something of an unofficial “thrust” to the cities happening, even if we aren’t using that word.

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