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Trusting God in the Midst of Violence

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As I Was Saying

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

On the evening of Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nev., a gunman fired onto a music festival crowd, killing over 50 people and injuring almost 500 more. This is being called one of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history. I grieve over this horrific tragedy. I pray for the victims and their families, for those helping them, and for all who are affected.

As Christians, we need to “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). Not only with those affected by the shooting, but also remembering all those suffering from the series of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other places.

And we need to pray. We cry out to the Lord for God’s mercy, comfort, and justice. “The prayer of a righteous [one] is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). But genuine prayer should also move us to act. To simply pray with our mouths but not act with our hands and hearts to help, or to work toward prevention of more such senseless deaths is akin to wishing someone well but doing nothing about his physical needs (James 2:16). Our faith, although not reduced to deeds, are always accompanied by deeds.

As our contemporary testimony states, “We deplore the spread of weapons in our world and on our streets with the risks they bring and the horrors they threaten” (Our World Belongs to God, article 54). Our faith confession must compel us to do what we can to protect our neighbors. The Heidelberg Catechism calls us to “protect [our neighbors] from harm as much as we can” (Q&A 107). It also regards the “prevention of murder” as the reason why “government is armed with the sword” (Q&A 105).

We must heed our Lord Jesus Christ’s warning that “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). Swords were the guns of Jesus’ day. Surely it is godly for Christians and the church to call upon governments to reduce the spread of weapons on our streets and develop other means to protect neighbors as much as we can.

The prophet Isaiah longed for the day when nations “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isa. 2:4). If God desires peace among nations, surely God also desires peace among the people.

Let us not trust in guns or weapons to protect us. Violence begets violence. Let us put our trust in the Lord. Can we, with the psalmist, say that the Lord will keep us from all harm, and watch over our lives? (Ps. 121:7). I know that Christians are not immune from harm and suffering. But we need to model to the world what trusting in God and God’s ways look like. By shunning violence as much as we can, and working toward prevention of violence, we can show the world that lives by power, coercion, and aggression that the way of God’s peace and love is more powerful and true. 

Even if we die, our lives are held in God’s hands. Nothing, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). From a biblical perspective, separation from God is the ultimate death, not the stopping of our beating hearts. As long as God holds us in his bosom, we live, even though we die. Let us trust the Lord, “for he is our sure defense” (Our World Belongs to God, art. 54). Let us trust the Lord, for he will right all wrongs and bring justice to the oppressed. He alone saves.

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