As I write this, I am still reeling from the news that 58 or more concertgoers were killed, and at least 515 (and counting) injured, when a lone gunman opened fire from a hotel window on the strip in Las Vegas. I am, once more, wondering what our world — our nation — has come to. Law abiding citizens are getting to the point where those places and events that used to be sources of comfort — churches, concerts, athletic events — are now times and places of extreme caution. How tragic … how utterly tragic.
I am a minister as well as a newspaper editor, and still I have questions about how we should respond to such news. I am guessing that we should not be shocked by anything we see or hear anymore. Evil exists. That’s a fact. No matter what form that evil takes we should not be surprised. The Bible tells us that humanity is universally sinful, so we can expect to come face-to-face with the consequences of that sinful nature.
However, even when we see the physical manifestation of such evil, we must remember that the fight for what is right is not against that heinous act. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I have to believe that if there is spiritual good at work in this world, there is surely spiritual evil as well. Simply put, just as kind and compassionate acts have spiritual good as there origin, physical acts of evil have spiritual origins as well.
As believers, when we see such evil around us, we should not respond by hiding ourselves away from such acts. I believe the first response should be to pray. We are called to pray without ceasing.
We shouldn’t be afraid or live in a state of paranoia. But we should be aware of our surroundings. We should always know the answers to the following questions: Where is the nearest exit? … Where is the nearest solid object I can use for cover? … What if an attacker is coming toward me? Knowing the answers to these question, and being mentally prepared, can help in an emergency situation.
Some will say, and rightly so, that the Bible teaches us to “love your enemies.” Yes, we are to love even our enemies. But there is a limit to what we must endure, and we see that line more clearly when tragedy strikes and evil shows its grinning face. Loving our enemies does not include giving them an opportunity to control us — either physically or mentally. You might seek to remind me about “turning the other cheek” — but that would be futile. That does not, in my opinion, apply in situations where the enemy is trying to harm (or even kill) you or someone near you. Being a Christian does not mean you have to allow yourself to be maimed, defiled, or destroyed in the name of “turning the other cheek.”
Above all else, I believe we are to pray that such acts will cease. In the likelihood that it does not, I think we must realize that we have the responsibility to show compassion for victims of such senselessness. In addition, in each such situation we should look for opportunities to share the love of Christ and the message of salvation, to both the victim and the perpetrator.
For now, I will pray for God’s comfort for those who have been affected by this most recent tragedy: the families of those who lost their lives, the injured and their loved ones, those who were attending the concert who will no doubt have scars — both physical and emotional, and for the counselors, medical professionals and law enforcement personnel who will be picking up the proverbial pieces from this nightmare for some time to come. I will pray for signs of hope in this world gone wrong.
As a pastor friend of mine from Las Vegas has shared, as believers we must … “Choose radical love in the midst of ridiculous hate!”