It seems like literally every time I look at the news these days, it is covered with horrific images from tragic events, such as France, Egypt, Brussels, Orlando, Dallas, France (again), and so many more. Unfortunately horrific acts of violence and hate have become so commonplace that the news stories seem to almost blend together, sometimes leaving people unsure which tragedy they are actually reading about. At a time when our own country is so deeply divided on matters of race, we are forced to pause and mourn with our family in France, who are deeply devastated and suffering.
As the death toll continues to rise in France, with 84 dead and 202 injured, I considered the flood of emotions people must have been experiencing in Nice – and throughout the world – the unanswerable questions that many are wrestling with after such savagery, and the almost trance like state that some may fall into when trying to fathom the question “what if this had happened HERE?” This is the exact type of question this type of event is intended to stir up. There is a reason why it is called terrorism; the desired outcome, is to not only to bring about great number of casualties, but to produce mass hysteria.
For others – as a result of the commonplace occurrence of these types of attacks – there is the very real temptation to try to ignore these tragedies altogether. Many people, in an attempt to be avoid being overtaken by a flood of emotions, will attempt to simply shut down internally, rendering them emotionally callous. Perhaps it is because we believe that our “heart just simply cannot handle dealing with another tragedy,” that we sometimes just ignore the present reality of brokenness, hurt, and cries surrounding us. Trust me, I get it. We all have a “boatload of hurt in our lives” and “enough of our mess to deal with.”
There is of course another danger of isolating ourselves from others, who outwardly appear similar to those who carry out such attacks. Erecting artificial walls – that separate us one from another – only perpetuates distrust, biases, anger, and division, which ultimately leads to a complete disintegration of what is supposed to be a shared human experience. The age old tactic of divide and conquer, that seeks to separate us one from another, has been used in different eras by various groups to perpetuate their personal ambitions. The consequences have been numerous and utterly horrific. People who do not have authentic interactions tend to lack a genuine trust for each other. This of course typically produces an environment that drives people further apart, further exacerbating the situation. Believe you me when I tell you that in the days following any number of terrorist attacks, there tend to be a lot more people giving me the infamous side look (perhaps due to the black robe I wear, olive colored skin, and dark beard I fashion), but like I said not every person who looks similar to an attacker shares the same ideology of that person.
I believe there is yet a better option. It is a choice, modeled best by our Lord Jesus Christ, requiring extreme sacrifice. It is a choice obliging us to have a perspective that moves to extend beyond our immediate situation. It is a choice mandating that we seek out those who are hurting and extend ourselves to them. It is a choice compelling us to gain a perspective that can look beyond our personal biases, social constructs, and spiritual presupposition. It is a choice that necessitates tearing down the artificial walls that have been erected in our minds, constantly nagging us to hate, distrust, or hurt others who look, think, behave, sound, or smell differently from us.
We must choose to relentlessly love others beyond our own abilities, that can only come through a living union with the God who is Love (1 John 4:8). When tragedy strikes, we must resist the instinct to withdraw in fear, shut down our emotions, or push others away who are “different.” Tragedy is part of the human condition that allows us an awesome opportunity to become like the crucified Christ to the world that our heavenly Father loves to dearly. For those who are hurting – whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually – seek to bear their burdens, and know that in so doing, you will be fulfilling the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) Let us mourn with those who are mourning (Romans 12:15), relentlessly loving a world that is full of hurt, death, disease, sin, and every kind of tragedy under the sun. When tragedy strikes,let your heart to cry out to God for the brokenness you see around you and extend your life in relentless love to be a source of comfort for those who are in any trouble.