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.
My heart is heavy as I write this article. On Sunday, May 13, three churches in Indonesia were bombed by a family of suicide bombers, killing at least 12 people and injuring many. A police headquarters was also attacked in a separate incident involving another family of suicide bombers. Authorities are assuming links to the terrorist group ISIS. This bombing vividly brings to mind the persecution of Christians across the globe. These horrific attacks were even more so when we realize that the suicide family included children as young as 9 and 12 years old. As a father of three, I cannot fathom how one can deliberately send one’s own children to their deaths.
In more sad news, the body of 23-month-old Alfie Evans was laid to rest on Monday, May 14, in England. Alfie died after his parents lost a long legal battle, which caught the world’s attention, to have him taken to Italy for possible treatment of a degenerative neurological condition. After being in a semi-vegetative state for more than a year, Alfie was taken off life support on April 23. He died a few days later. Regardless of which side you take in this debate, this is a tragedy. I cannot imagine seeing your own child slowly die before your very eyes while prevented from trying to save him.
On the same day as Alfie’s life support was disconnected in England, a man drove a van onto a Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 pedestrians and injuring 16 others. The driver was linked to a misogynist movement called the Incel (“Involuntary Celibates”) movement. Thousands of Canadians turned out in solidarity at the vigil held in honor of the victims.
Candles were lit during that vigil. As they were lit at the vigils for Alfie and for the Indonesian church victims. Lit candles remind us that, even in the midst of darkness, the light still shines.
We could go on and list many other tragic events, but you get the point. We live in a world surrounded by darkness. Christ has called his disciples to be the light of the world (Matt. 5:14).
In Scripture, light is almost always connected to life. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The “light of life,” suggests not intellectual enlightenment but life flourishing or life abundant (John 10:10). In Psalm 27:1, for instance, light is linked with salvation: “The LORD is my light and my salvation”.
As the light of the world, Jesus brings life as surely as darkness, sin, and evil bring death. We are called to follow Christ in bringing the light of life to the world.
We do this by prayer, first and foremost. We pray because we recognize that the war against evil and darkness is not a struggle against flesh and blood but against greater powers (Eph. 6:12). We should never underestimate the power of prayer.
But neither should we stop at only praying. Genuine prayers will stir more than our sentiments and thoughts but also move us to work and change. As the apostle James reminded us, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).
We should, therefore, pray fervently and work as fervently to right wrongs, to care for people, and to improve policies. We can work alongside non-Christians to achieve goals for the common good, for flourishing life, even as we bear witness to Christ’s salvific life. I am glad to see how in addition to a vigil for the van attack victims, protective barriers were set up along major sidewalks to prevent further vehicular attacks as authorities investigate other preventative measures. Furthermore, there was much discussion about the Incel movement and how to prevent young men from embracing such dark ideas. Only time will tell if these efforts will actually succeed. The point is that action accompanied people’s prayers. We must respond to darkness with our deeds as well as our prayers. And I pray that similar good deeds might follow the other tragedies.
As we work and pray to bring the light of life, we will face resistance, even outright hostility, from the forces of darkness. April 4 marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. It is a vivid reminder to us that darkness will always seek to snuff out the light, even nailing the Light of the world to the cross. But as Easter and the apostle John remind us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness had not overcome it” (John 1:5). The darkness had not overcome and it shall not overcome God’s light of life. Therefore, let us be encouraged and strengthened in our working and praying as God’s light of the world.