Romans 12:14-15 (NIV) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Events have occurred in the previous week that has stopped the western world in its tracks. The utterly heartbreaking and grotesque shootings that have claimed 50 lives in New Zealand have shocked so many due to their brutality. Moreover, in my opinion, also because they have deconstructed the western facade that we have created for ourselves which I can only describe as the attitude: ‘It could never happen here.’
Equally horrid are the events and others like it of the slaughtering of thousands of Christians for simply practicing their faith in, though not limited to, Nigeria. These events interrupt the modernist narrative of progress with the inconvenient truth of evil. This is of course precisely what they need to be allowed to be called. Nothing more.
I appeal particularly to my Christian brothers and sisters to consider how and how not to respond in the aftermath of evil. For our greatest witness or lack of it in contexts of such intense pain is often our consistency (or lack of it.)
I refer to those last 5 words of the verse above to make a point in love. We are instructed: “mourn with those who mourn.” My plead is simple; can we for the moment take note of the full-stop that appears and where. In other words, we are never instructed to mourn with those who mourn and then point out to everyone else who else should be mourning. Nor are we ever commanded to mourn with those who mourn and then point out what else they should be mourning about.
We should be outraged by the events of New Zealand and outraged at the events in Nigeria, but we should ensure that we never have the slightest whiff of “well you think that’s bad, look at what’s happening to our mates over here,” about us. Evil does not occur so that we can draw comparisons between events in order to get higher air-time in the media or public sympathy.
Those of you who are still with me and not completely outraged will rightly perhaps point out: ‘what about the church’s prophetic voice to hold the media to account?‘ Moreover: ‘what about the importance of being a voice for the martyrs?‘ To both points I say; yes and amen a thousand times. But, these are not battles that should ever be fought on the comment streams of someone else’s tragedy. The suffering of others should never, ever be seen as the occasion to make a point, particularly the point of comparison.
That’s not the Jesus way.
That’s the way of the ‘flesh’.
Can I say it in any starker a terms? Please, can we not fall into the ‘comparison game’.
I have found through many painful mistakes in my ministry journey so far that so often the difference between the way of the ‘flesh’ and the way of the cross is not necessarily always the content of our words but the timing. The right and the true thing at the wrong time (and context) can be as damaging to the cause of Christ as even the gravest heresy.
Meanwhile, one of the surest yet most unspoken marks of real spiritual maturity is when, amidst a conversation, you have all the right vocabulary and expertise to make a strong point…only to stay silent simply for the sake of someone else and where they are at on their journey.
It comes back to awareness of others in an age that talks often only about self-awareness. It is the way of the cross, the way of love, the way of the teacher in Ecclesiastes where all things are beautiful in their time.
Therefore, please do post and talk in support of the victims of the New Zealand massacre. Moreover, please do continue to be a voice for the martyrs and the injustices that are all too easy for a profit-driven media industry to ignore.
However can I please implore you to remember my brother, my sister one thing;
Timing (and therefore context) is everything. For I will never visit you during a time of grief only to deliberately compare it to someone else’s grief in order to convict you of some point in any way.
If I ever do, please refer me back to this article that I may repent.
In the meantime, bless you.