Across the internet, people are wondering how exactly to respond to the latest events of terror and horror. Of course, it’s not just Paris is it? Days earlier, 41 people were killed in Beirut, victims of a suicide bomber’s deranged quest for ‘justice.’ These events are too common to us. We have been here before. Is it cynical to say we will be here again in the (near) future?
“What is our response?”, that is what so many are asking. And, in the days to come, I am sure there will be many, many suggestions as to how the global community should ‘respond’ to these acts of terror. This question, however, takes a different twist when we ask it from a Christian perspective. How do we address these things from the perspective of faith? As members of the church, who believe there is a living and active God in this world, to what do we cling? Is there any hope? Where should our reflections take us?
I offer a few points to ponder. By no means are these meant to sum up the entire issue, nor do I assume this to be the faithful response to these horrors. These are just things I have been thinking about. They are drawn out of my own attempt to view these events from an eternal perspective – a perspective which I find gives a voice to my frustrations and a depth to my prayers. I hope they do the same for you.
1. Jesus said this would happen.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not sitting here with my newspaper in one hand and my Bible in the other. I am not suggesting that Jesus foreshadowed in any way the events of New York, London, Beirut, Paris or every other city in this world that has seen far too much violence. Yet we cannot ignore that Jesus did talk about matters such as this in stark realism.
And when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Mark 13:7-8).
To this we could easily add other statements from Jesus, passages from the writings of Paul and John, or prophecies from Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel. Heck, we could even go back to Genesis where it only takes a few chapters for us to read about the deception and murder.
The fact is, the Biblical understanding of our world is that it is tainted with sin and evil. The events as we have seen are but tangible examples of a deep and spiritual problem. It is a problem that is shown through countless pages of scripture. Evil occurs because this world has yet to be fully conformed to the Kingdom of Christ. As much good and beauty there is in this world, the full manifestation of God’s Kingdom of Heaven is not fully realized. This truth does not ‘explain away’ the horror of what happened; rather it causes us to realize that we still long for redemption; we still await God’s final eradication of the evil of this world.
2. The world is moving to its culmination in Christ.
The Bible preaches that all the hurt, heartache, and evil in the world is not God’s intention for that which God has created. God created the world in goodness, and longs for the world to return to it. It may seem scary to read scriptures that talk about times of distress—of nations warring against nations, and earthquakes and famines—yet this testifies that the world is moving to its final culmination. The creation is groaning for God’s kingdom. It does not mean that we view the world as going to hell in a hand basket.
Evil and horror in this world reminds us of the fact that we await the day when Christ returns. We affirm the second coming as a creedal part of our faith. We believe that evil doesn’t get the last word, and all things will eventually be placed under the rule of God. That reality, must give us hope in this world. Hebrews says ‘let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.’
This is what it means to see all of life from an eternal perspective. Everything that exists here and now happens in the shadow of God’s rule over all things. We may struggle with how long it is taking for Christ to return; we may even cry out amid the failure to see the presence of God in the midst of horrors. Yet none of these things detract from that singular truth which is our hope: in the end, God wins. Evil is eradicated through the loving sacrifice of Jesus. We may not see it now, but one day we will arise into that Kingdom and live eternally in that reality.
3. We have a ministry to engage in.
It may be easy to see the previous two points as advocating a sense of blind carelessness to the world. That was never Christ’s intention for his followers. When speaking about the wars and famines that act as precursor to His Kingdom, Jesus was not suggesting that his disciples simply sequester themselves in caves of holy ignorance. None of these things mean that we are able to escape our God given duty to fling ourselves into the darkness of this world and live as agents of the Kingdom of God.
The evil of this world does not cause us to remove ourselves from the world. It is actually quite the opposite—we follow Jesus into the heart of it.
When scripture talks about the end of the world, it is always talked about as an inspiration for us to hold open the doors of grace for each other. We are called to “spur one another to love and good deeds,” as it is declared in Hebrews. We hold up the salvation that is found in the grace of Jesus, and we give ourselves every day to being an expression of God’s kingdom in a world that is in desperate need of it.
There will be a final day, but that is probably not tomorrow. And so, until that day dawns upon us, we as Christian people, living in the hope of God’s kingdom, are called to do everything we can to invite people to enter that divine relationship through which we are made to know the path of life.
So in this time of frustration and confusion, of deep sorrowful prayers and groaning of spirit, let us continually hold firm to the truth that the love of God is better than hate of this world, that the peace of Christ is stronger than evil’s violence, and that the dark nihilism which lies underneath all acts of horror and terror will never thwart our hope in the Kingdom of Heaven.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.