As I write this, I'm watching a live news story about another mass murder, this time occurring in San Bernardino California. Fourteen people were killed and another 17 injured, with this occurring a few days after a shooting in a Planned Parenthood office. Both these events come off the heels of an attack in Paris that stunned the world. These type of events beg the question the following question:
WHAT'S GOING ON?
Why are we seeing such an increase in violence in America? Why do Americans, not just terrorists, feel the need to arm themselves and kill people? Furthermore, what is to be my response? How should I, a follower of Christ, respond in these type of circumstances? As I watch to news reports, listen to conversations, or read social media, I’ve picked up on a few common feelings people have about these sort of incidents. So the remainder of this blog won't be about identifying causes of violence, as the causes are many and are worthy of discussion, but I want to spend my time equipping us with how to handle our emotions about these events. I want to address different emotions we may feel and what to do with those.
IF YOU FEEL HATRED
It is natural, from a human perspective, to look at the people who commit heinous crimes and feel hatred, wishing, if we are honest, for people to receive their justice quickly in the form of their death. Is that an appropriate response? Who by hating another person has brought about good? It is true we should hate evil, as we are instructed to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). Imagine if Christ's response to our violence toward him was with hatred? Instead, he responded in grace and mercy asking the Father to forgive us “for they know not what they do." So if hatred is what you feel, channel that toward the evil act rather than hatred of people and continue to cling to what is good. Fighting evil with hatred isn't a recipe for positive change.
IF YOU FEEL VENGEFUL
Many of us have an inward vigilante, the part of us that wants to create justice of our own, especially when violence takes the lives of innocent people. However, we must be careful to not become the judge for we all have one judge. Paul states in Romans 12:19-21, "’Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written, it is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty give him something to drink. In doing this, you will keep burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’" God will settle all scores, whether on this side of heaven or when he returns. Let's trust God to provide the final judgment for those who commit evil acts.
IF YOU FEEL HELPLESS
It is easy to see violence increase in the world, especially right here in America, and feel helpless. I am only one person! What can I possibly to cause change? However, to feel helpless many times means we have let go of hope, believing people, the government, and so on are too far gone for redemption. In John 16:33, Jesus states, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." We can help by spreading hope, the hope that comes in knowing Christ Jesus. And we are not alone in this mission, for the Spirit is with us. I'm sure the disciples had movements of hopelessness, but they continued on, 12 men, and changed the world forever.
IF YOU FEEL NOTHING
Let's be honest, we have become desensitized to violence. It's in every TV show and video game. So when we turn on the news and see more people have died, we may feel nothing. This might be the most worrisome feeling of all. In Matthew 22: 34-40, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. Part of his response comes in verse 39: “Love your neighbor as yourself." If we feel nothing when we see our neighbors being killed, are we truly loving them? If you feel nothing, pray the Lord will help you begin to see people the way he see them.
So in the end, what are we to do? Two things come to mind: pray and stay on mission. In Philippians 4:4-7, we are instructed not to worry about anything, but with "prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." We should pray for our country, for the people who want to harm others, for ourselves that we would be brave and for Gods will to be done on earth.
Furthermore, we need to stay on mission. The mission of course is making disciples, which we find in Matthew 28, and this is perhaps our greatest way to combat the evil one. As we make disciples one by one, love will multiply, and if there is any hope for the world, it comes through the love of Christ! It won't be through our hatred, revenge, helplessness or apathy that the world is changed, but rather through our efforts to spread the love of Christ.