All eyes have been on France this weekend as Paris suffered what will likely be considered the worst terrorist attack in Europe in more than ten years. Responsibility was claimed by Islamic State, which is the current name of the extremist, Islamic, militant group formerly known as ISIS or ISIL. Though Islamic State has been brutalizing Syria and Iraq for some time now, the wide spread attack on Paris has gained the attention of the western world. As President Obama said, we feel as if an attack like this “is an attack on all of humanity.” Though most of us are unaffected in any direct way, we feel as if we too have been somehow violated.
As these feelings surface each time a large-scale tragedy happens, my thoughts always turn to questions of the proper response. I don’t mean the proper response of a nation or government. Though I do believe that God has given governments the authority to carry out justice through military action, I also know that the decision as to an official national response is one that I will never influence. The response I find myself pondering is that of individuals – particularly Christians. How should we think and feel about the events of this weekend and others like it? Can we do anything? Should we say anything? What should I desire as an outcome? Is there even one right response?
In considering these types of questions I have come up with a few thoughts that I want to share, though, true to personal form, they are pretty random.
- All life is valuable and should be treasured. This is one of the most important things to remember in a time of tragedy. All mankind is made in the image of God and as such each and every human life is of great value. This should make me thankful for every breath that God blesses me with, but it should also remind me of the precious value of every human life. Christians should be at the forefront of defending and protecting human life. As I consider a tragedy like that in Paris, I should respond with vocal and confident affirmation that God values each and every human life.
- Loss of life is tragic and should be grieved. Though we cannot let grief control or overwhelm us, in the light of the value of human life it is proper to grieve the loss of life. We ought to hurt with Paris and grieve their loss. It ought to affect us. It should make us sad when there is such senseless killing.
- Do not become callous toward death. One of the things that struck me about the recent Paris attack is that many similar events have happened in the past few months and have not received much attention. One of the unfortunate side effects of the ease of access to information in our culture is that death and destruction is somewhat commonplace. Though we cannot avoid hearing of many of the events that take place around the globe, I challenge you to ask God to give you a compassionate heart toward those who suffer. Though it is less painful to be callous, it is more Christ-like to hurt with those who are hurting.
- Desire justice, not death. As we have already stated, life is precious and the taking of life should always be seen as tragic, even when it is right and necessary. Though it might be natural to wish for the death of the murderers who took so much life, we must be cautious that we do not become desirous of death itself. In the words of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, “Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.” It is unbecoming of a believer to wish for the death of anyone, even if they happen to deserve that fate.
- Take every opportunity to point to the hope we have in Christ. There is a temptation to pile despair upon despair and as believers we should fight against this tendency. We need to be a voice of hope in the midst of grief. We should be a light in the darkness of despair. We know that God is in control even when things seem to be out of control. As those around you wonder about all that is going on, take the opportunity to point them to Jesus.
It is never easy to deal with loss and tragedy, but I hope that as Christ-followers we will respond differently than the lost world around us. Though we may not have all the answers, when terror strikes we can offer peace and comfort that is beyond the scope of this world.