The City of Light has become the City of Darkness, where panic, chaos, uncertainty and fear looms large over all. The place that has given so much to “civilization”, to education, to knowledge has, this evening, become the place of unspeakable acts of barbarianism.
I, like everyone else, have been horrified and filled with a deep sense of sadness at the tragic events that are occurring as we speak in Paris. As I watch the simultaneous horror and confusion unfold on social media, I was reminded by the eternal implications of our seemingly everyday lives.
It seems that whenever death visits us in ways that seem too sudden and too horrible to contemplate, that we feel numbed and unable to know how to respond. When it is a distant event, separated by geography as today’s event was for me, it seems apropos to perhaps post a status reminder on Facebook, or mention its horror in passing to our circle of acquaintances as we go on with our normal routines.
Our twin senses of justice and outrage both feel violated, as we consider the fatal nature of the simple act of going out for the evening for those who lost their lives. Our sense of calm seems violated almost unspeakably by a horrible act of violence that we are tempted to barely acknowledge (sadly) since it happened half a world away.
How should we respond as believers to a tragedy like this when it happens far away? This, as always is the bigger question. I would like to suggest 4 quick points for your consideration.
1. Pray. Pray that comfort and peace would be the portion for those families who have had their lives ripped apart. Pray that the God of all peace would bring comfort to those who are willing to call Him Father. Pray that those who do not know his peace can understand that true peace is available because of another death on our behalf, the death of His Son. Pray for those who believe that only in the giving of their life can Paradise be assured. Pray that they would learn that One gave His life once for all and that there is freedom and forgiveness for all at the foot of the cross.
2. Trust. Remember that the Sovereign God, creator and designer of the universe has allowed this to happen for a purpose. Some day, we will understand, but not today. Today, we grieve, we ask, we question.
3. Parallel it. What jumped out to me as the situation unfolded was this- counter terrorism troops were driving into danger, knowingly and deliberately, while everyone else was getting out. When duty calls, every one of them knew where they needed to be, knowing that it may put them in harms way. For some people who fulfilled their calling, sacrificing their lives may be the the ultimate expression of dedication to their vocation. In that instant, driving in to assist is the ultimate act of sacrifice, knowing that fear is both real and will be a constant companion. However, in that moment of sacrifice, a picture is painted of the ultimate Sacrifice, the ultimate willingness to serve the greater good, by giving up what is most important to us. Redeem your conversations about this to point to the parallel of the Redeemer.
4. Localize it. Death is the last enemy that each of us will face. When we are honest with ourselves, we realize that our end will be the same some day. To be sure, we may not face death at the end of a gun barrel in the course of walking into a concert hall for an evening, but we will face it nonetheless.
If we had known the events of today were going to unfold in that way, every one of us would have done everything in our power to prepare for it and to prevent it, however possible. We know that it is “appointed” for each of us to die. Instead of living a life trying to avoid that truth, we should embrace it.
Then, when tragedy strikes, as it inevitably will, in our lives, in our communities and in our worlds, we will hear the words that all of us who are soul weary of this dark, sad and broken world are anticipating:
Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of Your Lord.
For that day we long. May every tragedy remind us of the hope that we have been called to.