The reports that came out of Orlando two weeks ago were unbelievable and unspeakable. An event where 49 persons are killed and over 50 people are wounded in a nightclub is unnecessary and unthinkable. Other news certainly continues to unfold with each passing day. But there is one thing that remains. What is our response to violence?
When I heard the news, just like when other events of terrorism and violence occur, I recall the words of Paul in his letter to a church in Ephesus:
“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. . . so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (Eph 6:10-12)
Everything about this act of violence is outside of my experience. It is outside my assumption about what it means to be peace-loving. And, it threatens my desire to be safe and secure in public areas.
How are we to respond to such attacks? How do we stand firm?
Three Ways we Can Respond
First, let’s look beyond the immediate thoughts and feelings of outrage, horror, and fear. We know things are not right in the world. It’s as if something or someone is organizing things against God. The act of taking 49 lives and wounding over 50 others cannot be chalked up to differences in opinion. Nor can we write it off as poor communication. No, we cannot explain it away as someone’s likes and dislikes. It is called evil. And evil is large, cosmic, organized, subtle, pervasive, and real. The struggle in which we find ourselves is real and dangerous.
Second, as Christ followers and as peacemakers, we have the opportunity to show our communities and the world a power that is greater than evil. I challenge all of us to stand firm in the faith. Our faith is given to us by God and is not always convenient. Let’s not abandon who we are as followers of Christ for the sake of convenience. We know that to do so is to give into evil. We must, in the midst of our vulnerability and weakness, stand firm in the strength of the living God.
If we stand in fear and react out of emotion, we give power to the evil that is not real or true. The people behind such acts of terrorism embody the evil of hatred and bigotry. At any given time, motivated by fear and emotion, you and I embody the same evil. Let’s not give into the intimidation.
Third, because of what we have experienced, we have the opportunity to be who God created us to be. We can join hands, if not hearts, with people with whom we may not associate, agree, or understand. We have the opportunity to model for the world God’s design for all creation. Evil can seem overpowering. Yet, God’s plan for creation is greater than any evil embodied in violence and terrorism.
When we come to the end of the day “having done everything,” we can stand firm. We can stand firm because we know that against all aggression there is the presence of God.
Against all attacks, there is the promise of God.
Against all evidence, there is the power of God.
And against all odds, there is the victory of God.
With that being said, words are not enough. Feelings, whether rooted in compassion or outrage are not enough. How does standing firm get translated into positive action that brings about the redemption and transformation of our relationships, our communities, and the world? For too long we have either tried to make our way on our own power. Or, mistakenly decide to be silent and do nothing, thinking God will do something for us.
Over the next week, I will explore with you several ways we can respond. We’ll also look at which of these ways might make a significant difference. In the meantime, may we stand firm in the Lord.