What should Christians do when they are blamed for problems in culture that they did not cause? Or when they are held responsible for things they did not do?
After the Orlando shooting at the Pulse nightclub in June, Christians were accused of being complicit. David French and Denny Burk each reflected on this blame-casting. The pattern may repeat itself in future events. It can be easy to become defensive or to go on the offensive, but before we do, it is worth considering the example of Moses.
Moses faced a situation with some similarities as recorded in Numbers 16. After wandering for years in the wilderness, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron in the nation of Israel. Specifically, Aaron’s priestly leadership was challenged.
God called for a public meeting the next day. He told both groups of men to burn incense before the Lord to see which he would accept. In dramatic fashion, the Lord caused the ground to open up and swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abriam along with their 250 followers and their possessions.
The Lord brought calamity of the sort that only he could bring as a warning to those who were tempted to disbelieve. It would reasonable to expect that witnesses who saw divine judgement with their own eyes would be startled by the reality of God’s wrath against sin, heed the Lord, and turn to him. Case closed, right?
“But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the LORD’” (Numbers 16:41). God’s wrath was kindled in response to their reaction. A plague began to move through the camp. Because the congregation refused to respond to a relatively small outbreak of God’s wrath against 250 people, this new plague would take the lives of 14,700.
Moses had been in the right. God had vindicated him. What was Moses’ response?
Moses didn’t politicize the situation, bemoan injustices against him, or berate the people. He didn’t log on to social media and post about it. Instead, he and Aaron interceded with urgency because they loved the people. Using the fire from the altar, Aaron burned incense on his censer and ran through the camp to make atonement until the plague was stopped.
That atonement was a picture of Christ’s atonement on the cross for sin. The only way God’s wrath can be fulfilled for any sinner is through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. His atoning death was received by God the Father as proven in his subsequent resurrection.
Moses and Aaron interceded in their day for a sinful people. The Lord answered their prayers.
God’s people are still called to intercede. There may be other necessary forms of response when God’s people are found guilty for calamities that come, but surely our first response ought to be that we would intercede and pray that God might be merciful.