An Empty Response: How Should Christians Respond to Violent Attacks
The EC crew tackles tough social issues through our personal lenses. In light of the recent and seemingly perpetual violent incidents between Police officers and ethnic American minorities, we felt it was important to answer the question, "How should Christians respond?" Here are some brief thoughts from the members of Empty Church.
Oh Lord, How Long? - Josh Schaidt
My morning prayers centered around Habakkuk 1:2-4:
2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not hear?
Or cry to you "Violence!"
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
4 So the law is paralyzed,
and justice never goes forth.
For the wicked surround the righteous;
so justice goes forth perverted.
This is precisely how I feel this morning in light of the multiple tragic events involving life-ending violence, riots, and retaliation. Oh Lord how long until you intervene! There is never a time more evident in regards to the brokenness of this world then when human life is taken. My heart breaks for the brokenness which envelopes us all.
But how do we, as Christians, as those who worship and trust a just, loving, and caring God react to these violent events? Sadly, too many Christians choose to rally around some amorphous slogan that further alienates us as humans. Other do what they believe is best and send their thoughts and prayers but even a proper theology of prayer demands that we act in addition to pouring our hearts in plee to our God. Even more will unwittingly pick a side based on what their chosen news source tells them to believe. The time has come for the church to act in the ministry of reconciliation. Yes, prayer is a part of that ministry but our prayers must be accompanied by tangible action. But, the question looms, what exactly are we supposed to do? As Christians, what can we do? Here are some starting points:
1. Deal with the racism in your heart
These tragedies are racially charged situations. We have to move beyond the idea that the statistics are merely coincidental and anecdotal. Christians of all races must not let even the subtlest of racism reign in their hearts. Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan and the passage concerning the Samaritan women shows the love of Christ should overwhelm the racist stigma that can reign in us all. There will be no progress until the Holy Spirit convicts us of our racial sins and we repent from them.
2. As best you can, learn to trust
At the very center of every violent tragedy is a genuine sense of mistrust between the parties involved. Each believes the other's intention is to cause physical harm to the other. Indeed those intentions may be real and palpably present, we will never know that from watching a video. Assuming intentions can unnecessarily escalate situations. Trust, we know is earned and the "sides" involved have plenty of reason to mistrust each other. We as Christians must demonstrate love and trust and act as an example to the world that is watching.
3. Do SOMETHING besides sit on your hands and speak nonsense
For once, Church, shut your opinionated mouths, get off your butts and do something! Talk to your local law enforcement and find out how you can help. Speak to those in your nearby communities that feel threatened by the police and find a need you can address. Be a bridge between the two. How? Get creative. If you are an organizer, organize an event. If you are a counselor, counsel. If you are a chef, get with the organizer and prepare a meal to bring people together! Just do something to help the reconciliation process. It doesn't have to be a large-scale intervention for there to be a positive impact.
Above all, remember God's reply to Habakkuk:
For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
The answer of God sovereignty is often for us to wait and see. His promise, though not yet fulfilled, is also not forgotten. But this time of waiting is neither an excuse to do nothing nor a prompt to give up hope.
Prayer is an action, not a hashtag - Sarah Schaidt
When tragedies strike, both global and local, people often do not know how to respond. Most people want to do something to help or show support. For local tragedies like a neighbor's house burning down or a death in a coworker's family, it is easy to do something small like making a meal or sending a card. But what do you do when a large tragedy has taken place, especially one that is far away? The standard response today is to post something on Facebook about sending #thoughtsandprayers. But what impact does that really have? I'm not saying that prayer is worthless in these situations, as Christians that should be one of our first responses; but it should not be the only one.
So how should we respond to the recent shootings?
Just be there
Be there to listen to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors who are hurting or frightened by these events which are happening all around us. Just because you cannot personally empathize does not mean you cannot show someone your support. Your presence will mean more than simply sending "good thoughts" their way.
Pray with someone
Saying you're praying for someone is one thing. Doing it is another. In addition to just being there with those who are hurting by recent events, offer to pray with them. Praying with your friend who fears for her son's life as he drives to/from work or with your neighbor who is a police officer will have more of impact than a social media hashtag ever can.
Don't forget your kids
I held my daughter a little longer the other night after the news of yet another shooting broke. My initial instinct is to shield her from all of this but I know that won't help her in the future. I need to teach her that it's wrong to judge others based upon how they look, what they believe, or where they are from. I need to teach her not only respect authorities like the police but also that she doesn't need to be afraid of them. The media will continue to spin these stories and our children, even the youngest, are paying attention. Don't let what they hear/read be the end of the discussion. Here's a crazy thought: take them with you when you're visiting and praying for others, they just might learn from your example.
Something Needs to Change - Kristal Miller
In situations such as the Dallas shooting it makes me realize how utterly powerless we actually are. Even our leaders, government, the president, can’t fix what is going on in this country. We can send #thoughtsandprayers and discuss our outrage publicly on social media so everyone knows how we feel about it, but how is that going to help? It’s too late. People are already dead. Someone is already out there plotting their next shooting.
So what can I do? The cliché answer from a Christian would be “pray.” I am not a Christian and I don’t really know if prayer is going to help. If Christians truly believe in the power of prayer then they shouldn’t be waiting until a tragedy to pray, they should be praying for the nation and the people every single day. So once again I ask myself what can I do?
My honest answer is I have no idea. The only thing I know is that something needs to change. There are people out there who say that America is falling apart, and I agree. Then there are the people that disagree with those people. They say that America is great, the greatest, and that we have nothing to worry about, there are no problems. I disagree. Those people are naïve to the fact that America can fail. America will fail if we keep heading in the direction we are going.
Mourn with those who mourn - Sean Kready
Nothing: When it comes to taking action or doing something practical often we cannot do anything. When something terrible happens people always want to jump to do something. Rarely do they. Most of the time they really can’t because they aren't in a position to help. There are organizations which people can receive training to help but we never do and when something happens it is too late. The next time you have an urge to go help people but find you can’t because of short notice, I recommend putting into place the opportunity to help in the future if you cannot now. People can give money but we must be informed about who we are giving it to. The Christian response should be to pray, but lets be honest, people rarely believe praying will do anything, so they don't pray. With shootings receiving such media attention, people think, “Man the world is crazy right now” and they count that as “sending good thoughts” because good thoughts hold no risk and allow us to have a short memory about horrible events in the world.
A true Christian should always respond with mourning and prayer. We must mourn with those who have lost and mourn for our lost chances to tell those who died about what Jesus has done. Remember there is a whole book of the Bible on Laments. It is not wrong to express mourning or lament. I would encourage people to read through the book of Lamentations through these troubling times. I always end up praying that the people who died were told about Jesus and responded accordingly, because my heart hurts for those who didn’t. We should pray for the ones who lost people. First for their grief and for them to be aware of God’s love and peace. Secondly for them to know God through the loss. Both need to come from a place of love for people.
In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah finds out that many of the Jews have been taken captive and the ones who haven't were in great hardship and Jerusalem was pretty much destroyed. His respond is recorded in Nehemiah 1:4: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” The verses following it show Nehemiah confessing the sins of his people to God and asking for favor so that he could bring his people back. I think that it is important to note that he sought God before jumping to action but after mourning and seeking God, Nehemiah did take action. So I come full circle to say that we must prepare ourselves to take action that God calls us to. We cannot do nothing, but sometimes at first what we do might look like nothing but is vital mourning and prayer that comes before action.
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