Paul Batura: Pentecost at a time of chaos, pain – these fruits of the Spirit can begin healing process

From Minneapolis to Manhattan and Atlanta, and in numerous other cities across the United States, one gets the sense that mayhem and evil are on the loose.

Did it all start with the horrifying death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died while in police custody?

I don’t think so. Wickedness almost always starts from the inside out, often long before a flashpoint ignites an explosion.

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What we’ve been witnessing the last few days is the product of years of neglect, indifference and outright disrespect toward life. Inherent in such a culture is a disdain for dignity.

Every man, woman and child is of inestimable value – “red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight” – as the old children’s Sunday school song goes.

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What’s the answer?

Governors can call in the National Guard and President Trump can deploy troops to help restore order. But, in a sense, it will be a fragile peace because neither warriors, for all their good intentions, nor their weapons can reach the real source of man’s wickedness.

At the root of our current crisis, and the reason for the madness is our sin and our failure to see that all people are made in God’s image.

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It was the late Billy Graham who once said, “Jesus made it plain that sin was far more than a wrong act. Anything that is against or contrary to the will of God is sin.”

And racism and rioting are clearly against God’s will.

Ironically, this latest crisis falls amid a transformative season of the Christian church as Christians celebrate a force that can turn hostile hearts to loving and peaceful ones.

In the hierarchy of Christian holy days, Christmas and Easter stand alone. One follows the other, of course. Without the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, there would be no need or reason for His resurrection from the dead 33 years later – a singular, monumental and transformative event upon which every Christian’s faith rests.

But there is a third day on the Christian calendar that is woefully understated and under-recognized. I’m referring to the feast of Pentecost – an ancient festival commemorating the day when followers of Jesus believe the Holy Spirit descended from the heavens and rested upon His once scared and frightened apostles.

The anniversary of that special day is today – the 50th day after Easter.

In Christian teaching, God is three persons in one – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Some theologians even divide history into three corresponding eras based on this triune belief. Prior to Jesus’ three-year ministry, we lived in the era of God the Father. Then there was the brief but substantial era of Jesus. Ever since His ascension, we’ve been living in the era of the Spirit.

When the apostle Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Galatia, an area in modern-day Turkey, he reminded them that the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Pentecost is celebrated in many churches, marked in some by the wearing of red and the reading and singing of relevant Scriptures and hymns. But I’ve long thought it should be way more of a big deal, because the arrival of the Holy Spirit changed everything, most especially the trajectory of the early Christian Church.

But speaking more personally, the Holy Spirit didn’t just change the world – He changed me.

I remember a day in the sixth grade when it all came together for me. I had an awakening to the Holy Spirit that inexplicably filled me with a confidence and boldness that seemed to put feet to my faith.

I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace, assurance and conviction. It was so wonderful that even 36 years later, I can hardly explain it.

I didn’t hear any audible voice, but I could sense the Lord telling me, “Paul, you’re ready to go out and share your faith. People may mock and make fun of you, but don’t worry about it. Just tell them in your own words what I am doing for you.”

When the apostle Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Galatia, an area in modern-day Turkey, he reminded them that the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Rarely have the people of the world needed the “fruit” of the Spirit more than today.

There’s an old saying that something too good to be true usually is – but not in this case, nor ever in God’s economy. There are thousands of promises in the Bible, and one of my favorites involves how to bring the Holy Spirit into your life. In reality, it’s also the way to eternal life. It’s from the evangelist Luke:

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“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

We’re all a work in progress, but I hope you’ll join me in praying for peace throughout America, and may the power of the Holy Spirit infuse and transform all of us from the inside out.

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