These last few months have seen violence and hate perpetrated repeatedly by destructive, misguided and often disturbed people against those who should never have been the victims of such random violence; Whether it be a picnic primarily of Christians in Pakistan, a church or mosque in Northern Nigeria, the massacres in Paris, the horrendous daily attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, the killing last year of 2 military personnel in Canada, or the more than daily multiple instances of violence in the United States, culminating in the largest mass shooting in recent American history in the LGBT community in Orlando this last Sunday morning. It matters not one’s faith, age, or orientation in the gun or bomb sights of someone’s hate.
All Christians of every stripe should stand with those who have lost loved ones as with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who gave Himself up to the nations and cruelty of evil folk and went so far as to heal the ear of the high priest’s servant that Peter had torn asunder. We refuse to be selective about who we grieve for and whose loss and suffering we decry. We do not choose whether we love all of God’s people, those who He has created; or whether we love, advocate and care for just some. However, we are tempted to be selective. It is somewhat understandable that only when we see violence through personal experience are we seized by it, challenged by it, and even frightened by it.
Let me share 2 personal examples. First, when our then 18-year-old daughter went on a mission trip well over a dozen years ago she arrived at an airport in an area that was known for its kidnapping of young women for various disturbing purposes. We suspected that she had taken a taxi when she landed (many of which were unregulated in this particular nation). We were not able to contact her nor did we hear from her for 24 hours. I cannot begin to describe for you the meaning of that kind of fear that overwhelmed us for her safety. Secondly, on July 7, 2005 when 52 people were killed in train and bus bombings in London, England, our son was travelling across the city of London from one airport to another. We didn’t know where in the city he had been and whether he had made it across town safely… In the end he did.
All grief, outrage and righteous indignation becomes personal at some point. That is certainly true for those in Orlando this week, for those in Manchester, England marking the 20th anniversary of the Irish Republican Army bombing injuring 212 people, and for those remembering the Boston Marathon bombing. The memories of the maimed, the injured, and those who grieve the dead don’t fade as easily as media headlines in our collective memories. It is clear from God’s perspective one human being is no different from another, and that that needs to be said is in and of itself a challenge. The lessons we are learning include the following: Don’t disproportionately care for the suffering or death of one group over another. God doesn’t differentiate; Neither should we. (It always disturbed me that the 2004 tsunami in Thailand was widely reported because the death included westerners, neighbours, co-workers and their kids, but in the previous year over a quarter of a million people died in central China without a whimper from the western press.) Whatever boat we’re on, if we ourselves seek to be included in God’s grace, love, and care, we had better make sure that we extend to others what has been given to us. We do so in light of Christ’s forgiveness of Peter but also the rather important parable of the unforgiving servant. Bruce Clemenger, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, wrote a message of condolence on Twitter:
“My sympathy and prayers for the victims and family and friends of those who lost loved ones in terrible shootings in Orlando. I hope that is the response of all Christians, but sadly, some need reminding.”
Pray for people. Practice it. Be both a peacemaker and peacekeeper.
Notes from the Family: Tammy Klassen has just told me that SERVE 2016, which will be hosted by Emmanuel Baptist Church in Victoria, BC this July has for the first time gone over 300 registrants. Also, most particularly exciting, there are equal numbers of males and females.
Unhelpful quote or paraphrase of the week: “He had a mind like a steel trap. Easily sprung and hard to reset.”