By Pr. Eric Brown
I woke up this morning to more reports of violence. More terrorism over the weekend, another mass shooting, places still devastated by natural disasters. Seems to be what we wake up to entirely too often. And so the question seems to be how do we as Christians react, respond to these tragedies – and I don’t mean here in terms of our charity or our giving. Yes, of course, go love your neighbor and help those who are suffering – but how do we approach this violence, how to we understand it as Christians?
The world responds to violence in a horrible way. I sat watching my news feed as bits and pieces of information came in – and everyone was just waiting for the political spin. Please don’t let the shooter be one of “us” – let him be one of “them” so we can talk about how they are dangerous and need to be stopped. The vultures were hovering waiting to toss out blame, waiting to rile up anger. There’s a tragedy – so do we get to attack today or are we going to be attacked?
Of course this is the way the world works. The world loves anger, loves a “good” fight to prove that we’re “right”. That’s the way it was in Jesus’ day. When Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He weeps. He cries out, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Lk 19:43) Isn’t that what we see today? Peace is far from anyone’s mind – there’s been tragedy and instead of rushing to provide peace, we end up getting prepared for the next round of spin the blame wars that are sure to come. No peace, no real longing for peace – just people waiting for the chance to use tragedy to argue about how they were right and the other person was wrong and dangerous. No peace.
The very same Jesus who weeps is Himself the One who makes for peace, true and lasting peace. He is the One who goes to the Cross and dies for peace. He is the One who rises and appears to the disciples and speaks to them over and over again, “Peace be with you.” He is the one who come to you in bread and wine so that the Peace of the Lord would be with you always.
Always. Even when the news feed is full of shouts of angry shouts of blame. Even when there’s tragedy and disaster, one after another. And when they show up again, we in Christ need not try to pin the blame on our enemies. We know the root blame of tragedy and disaster. Jesus has taught us. When we see tragedies in the world, they remind us of sin – our own sin, our own need to repent (Lk 13:1-5). When we see “wars and rumors of war… famines and earthquakes” (Mt 24:6-7) and all sorts of troubles, these are reminders that Jesus will come to deliver us from this evil.
Whatever you see on the news, whatever bile you see people slinging at each other, the fact remains that Jesus has come and has made true peace. He has died and He has risen for you. He’s died for the sins of the whole world – even for the sins of the wicked, even for the sins of the suffering, even for the casters of blame. He’s died and risen even for the angry, the hurt, and the confused. He has died and risen for you, and He speaks His Word of peace to you over and over again in His Church so that you would know His peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding.
Yes, there is darkness in the world. You’ll see that darkness as long as you live. You’ll be tempted to jump on in and toss your own darkness into the mix and throw shade at your enemies. But here is the greater truth: Christ Jesus has forgiven you all your sin and called you out of this darkness into His marvelous light. In Christ Jesus, you have life and light always – no matter what comes down the pike, no matter what people say. He is your life and your light, and He always will be for you are His and He is yours.
How do we as Christians make sense of tragedy? We remember our Lord who suffered Himself upon the Cross to rescue us from all sin and evil, who rose to give us life everlasting. This is ever our hope, no matter what we wake up to.
Rev. Eric Brown is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Herscher, Illinois and the co-host of the HT Gospeled Boldly Podcast.