Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sure Hope in an Uncertain World: The Paris Attacks and the Christian Response

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, fear Him who can kill both soul and body in hell.  -Jesus, Matthew 10:28

I sit this morning in my living room with the television muted and the quiet crawl of CNN updating me on the latest from all that transpired last night in Paris.  Like most of the rest of the civilized world, I am feeling a mixture of complex emotions--anger, sadness, shock, and the sense of anxiety that hits all of us when we realize we have witnessed an event that we know will change things on a global scale.

There is no other way to put this.  Last night, we saw the sort of raw, unadulterated evil that demonstrates moral relativism to be as absurd as it really is.  France--a nation that for many decades has not been known for its hawkishness--is using the language of declared war.  Additionally, the French are NATO allies, meaning that fresh conversations will now open up regarding the reaction to these atrocities that should come from the United States.

The issues involved are complex, and the question of appropriate participants, scale of response, and overall strategy are essential pieces of the conversation that happens next.  But as best as I understand our long and faithful history of just warfare theory, we are long past the point at which it is appropriate for Caesar to unsheathe his sword.  Pacifism that ignores the plight of innocents is not the sort of peace Jesus speaks of, and there is only one way to deal with these sorts of ideologically-driven barbarians.  You have to kill them.

At the same time, a more important question remains for followers of Jesus.  What is our role in times like these?  While we should stand in solidarity with victims and call for justice, our calling is not fulfilled in beating the drums of war.  Furthermore, war has a way of bringing out the worst on all sides, and Christians have an opportunity to keep that from happening.  But to play our role effectively will require taking actions that are very counter-cultural!

1. Pray.  Pray for comfort for the families of victims.  Pray for the first-responders in Paris who are being shaken to the core by what they are witnessing.  Pray for the leaders of the French government to make wise decisions in response to these atrocities.  Pray for our own President to have God-given wisdom to make clear and righteous decisions regarding our own country's involvement.  Pray for military personnel representing any countries that respond to this. Pray for opportunities to be personally involved in serving others.

2. Welcome the stranger.  In tenuous times like these, the temptation is always strong to allow fear to drive how we respond to the victims of conflict.  Fear caused us to house Japanese-Americans in virtual open-air prisons during World War II.  Fear caused us to turn away Jews seeking asylum from Hitler and effectively send them back to waiting gas chambers.  Let's not make that mistake again.

Of the more than 4 million Syrian refugees, the bulk are being hosted by Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. Roughly 200,000 are the guests in various European nations, and to date, about 10,000 are scheduled to be resettled here in the United States.  1500 of them are currently being housed in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area.  With all the churches in this area, there is absolutely no reason why these souls created in God's image should lack for anything they need.  There are ways you can adopt a refugee, and numerous ways you and your church can partner to serve these people who have been through unspeakable circumstances.  You can find all that information here.

Let's not throw up walls in fear.  In the face of political calls to "close our borders," let's do what Jesus did--incarnate ourselves among people not like us, and serve them in the name of our King.

3. Preach the Gospel.  Though war is sometimes necessary, followers of Jesus have something better to do than merely fan the flame of propaganda.  We carry the greatest message of reconciliation that has ever been declared in all of human history!  During times of international tension, there is always the temptation to allow the preservation of a temporary kingdom to overshadow God's extension of an eternal one.  Jesus is the only one who can bring peace, and if we believe Him, then we must be the agents of that peace--embracing and loving our neighbor, and sharing the basis for that love at every available opportunity.

Its been a long time since there was a more strategic opportunity for the church of Jesus Christ to shine!  The sure hope of the Gospel never shines brighter than when cast against the backdrop of calamity, chaos, and global uncertainty.

Pray.  Love.  Preach.

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