New Zealand experienced its worst terrorist attack in history as Muslims attended Friday prayers in Christchurch NZ with over 49 killed by a gunman and accomplices.
How should the church respond?
Romans 12:15 tells us we should mourn.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
The life of a Christian is marked by a change. How we interact with God, neighbors, and self is affected as we meet Jesus and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, changing the heart of a Christian to be countercultural. Right now, there is a growing fear of the “other” across the US, Europe, and Australia which is an evil culture to be countered. In Christ, we are free to love without measure and to move across ethnic and cultural and religious lines to show the love of Christ.
The world has seen increasing extremism and violence. Shown in the FBI hate crimes database in the US alone, they reported in 2018 that hate crimes were up 17% from three years previously.
Christians need to counter this narrative that difference in ethnicity and religion should lead to a flow of hate. This hate is rooted in the Evil One who seeks to kill and destroy. The Christian needs to have our worldview saturated by the gospel. All people are made in the image of God. Jesus has come to die for unlovely sinners. The Cross has come to break the dividing walls of hostility, symptoms of our fallenness that we saw carried out today between an Australian towards New Zealand Muslim community. What they experienced was sheer evil.
We can remember the best parts of church history: the Dutch Christians that smuggled Jewish refugees to safety during WWII, the Christian women in England that boycotted sugar because of the evils of the African slave trade, calling out evil where it entangled the British worldview towards people made in the image of God. As they were being persecuted for their faith the early church also earned the title of being promiscuous to the wondering outsiders because they not only took care of their own widows and orphans but also those of the pagan Romans around them.
What mourning with those who mourn can look like:
Pray for comfort for those that lost family and loved ones. Pray for the first responders and the doctor’s skills as they care for the wounded and have to see such tragedy. Pray for the terrorists involved in the shooting to be deeply convicted of the evil they have done and to repent and turn to Christ for salvation. Pray for the hostile world we live in to be changed by an encounter with the good news of Jesus. Weep. It is okay to weep.
Are there Muslim families in your community? Ask them how they are doing. Ask them how this act of violence towards Muslims has had an effect on their community. Listen. When an attack happens in one location, it is easy for those who are part of that group in another location to feel particularly vulnerable or particular grief. The same practice can and should happen when any community is targeted for his or her ethnicity or religion or for any particular identity. The Church can love well by listening well. Now is the time we can live out Romans 12:9-13.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Share the gospel
Share the gospel with your neighbor who is fearful of foreigners. Share the gospel with your Muslim neighbor. Share the gospel with your co-worker that espouses white nationalist ideologies. Share the gospel with your woke secular neighbor. Share the gospel with the church lady next door who is a bit afraid of Mexican immigrants. Share the gospel with the nice guy next door. Share the gospel with yourself. The human heart was made for Christ. It is in Christ we can see that we are more fallen than we ever dared dream and more loved by God as Tim Keller often reminds us. It is through the lens of the gospel that flattens the spirit of “us verses them” that we can mourn loss and despicable evil. Jesus Christ died to move the Christian’s heart to love and compassion and brokenness for the murdering of 49 Muslims on the other side of the world we might have no connection to personally. He died that we might live a counter narrative to the narratives of hate around us.
Christian, will you join me in mourning with those who mourn and weeping with those who weep?
Christy was a missionary with Cru for 15 years in the UK, and then serving refugees with her church and the wider body of Christ in Northeast Ohio. Affiliate staff with Cru now, Christy is working in a role with the Evangelical Immigration Table, helping equip churches in the Midwest to respond to the arrival of immigrants in their community in ways guided by the Bible.