There is an incredible, counter-intuitive moment in Joshua 7. Basically, the Israelites were invading the land; God had promised them success as long as they obeyed Him, and things to this point had been going well. Then the day came that they attacked Ai; the Israelites were sent packing. Joshua, and the other leaders, were stunned, and immediately fell on their faces praying to God for help.
Which is what we’re supposed to do in times of crisis, right?
But God’s response was shocking; “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?” (Joshua 7:10, NLT) God essentially rebukes them for praying! His point? They know the covenant, they know their defeat means there is sin in the camp. The answer was not to simply lay on the ground praying … the answer was to do what they already knew to do: deal with the sin infecting and corrupting their community.
Every time we have another mass shooting and the cycle of “thoughts and prayers,” Facebook debates, media sensationalism, and reassurances that we cannot rush into any emotional decisions but will deal with it when an appropriate amount of time passes … which never seems achievable because there’s always another mass shooting right around the corner, I find myself going back to this passage over and over.
It’s time to get up.
The Bible is full of verses detailing God’s heart for the innocent, those who cannot defend themselves, and the responsibility of those who have the ability to do something. It is also full of instructions to those who claim to follow God regarding our responsibility to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves. In God’s economy, sometimes it is far better to give up something I feel I deserve for the sake of others. I relinquish my preferences out of love for those around me.
We know what is causing death in our community. We know what needs to change; prayers are good and important, but they cannot be an excuse to avoid taking action. Just like Joshua needed to get off his knees and do what he knew needed to be done, we need to move as well.