Five Words for Believers in the Midst of Tragedy

Like so many of you, I have closely followed the news of the last few days.  I’ve watched the coverage of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  I’ve read articles, scanned tweets, and listened to interviews.  I’ve heard and watched the outrage escalate in Louisiana and Minnesota.  As it always seems to occur these days, it was just a matter of time before things got worse….and then they did.

Last night, I went to bed with knowledge that something had happened in Dallas.  I woke to gut-wrenching, soul-horrifying tragedy.

Growing up near Memphis, the nightly news consistently reported murders.  Seemed like hundreds of them.  Maybe that was when my heart began to grow cold to the reality of life lost in such tragic ways.  Even though I was across the Mississippi River, the stories seemed a world away.

Almost 20 years later now, leading a family and a church, the stories hit closer to home.  I have to raise four girls in this world.  I pastor decorated veterans, active duty soldiers, courageous police officers.  Although my church is a very traditional Southern Baptist Church, I pastor young and old – black, white, and Hispanic – white and blue collar.  The realities of recent days touch us all, but in different ways. 

There is so much that needs to be said, and so much we want to say, but in moments like this I think five basic words should reverberate in the lives of Christ-followers. 

1.      Mourn - Paul told the church at Rome to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and to “mourn (or weep) with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). 

Now is not the time to speculate about what may or may not have led to any of these tragedies.  This is not the time to pontificate.  Now is not the time to point fingers.  Now is not the time to let hatred, racism, and division further overtake us.  Now is not the time to judge.

Now is the time to mourn.  We weep for children whose fathers aren’t coming home, for wives who’ve lost their husbands, for mothers who’ve lost their sons.  We mourn for a nation, indeed for a world in chaos.

2.     Pray – We are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  This should be the normal posture of our Christian lives, but even more so in seasons such as this. 

 We should pray for all involved.  For families and friends.  For doctors and nurses.  For first responders.  For mayors and city officials.  For our government.  For our President. 

3.     Remember – The Bible tells us that God created humanity in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27).  That means all of humanity.  Black lives matter.  Blue lives matter. 

 Remember that on His cross, Jesus purchased people from “every tribe and tongue and nation” (Revelation 5:9).  The dividing walls of hostility have been broken down so that now, for those who are in Christ, there is one family, one body, one Lord, one faith. 

Remember that Jesus loves the little children of the world…all of them…red and yellow, black and white.

4.     Fight – The church of the Lord Jesus Christ must lead the fight against injustice.  This is part of the the heart and ministry of Jesus, the one who was anointed to “to bring good news to the poor… to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).

In time, we let justice proceed and prevail where it must, and where it can.  But we also speak out, preach against, live in light of, and fight social injustice. 

We must do so with theological wisdom and Spirit-filled grace.  Scripture must be our guide as we winsomely seek to represent Christ and glorify God in all we say and do.

5.     Trust – Scripture is clear.  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).  We believe that God is sovereign over all things, and that ultimately, the “judge of all the earth will do right” (Genesis 18:25).  We believe that He is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

We trust in our God and we trust in His gospel. Our ultimate hope is the power of the gospel.  Only the foolishness of the preaching of the cross will make the difference in the hearts and minds of those who have been blinded by the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).  We cannot be ashamed of the gospel for it is the “power of God unto salvation to all who believe” (Romans 1:16).

We live in a world of increasing moral insanity. Yet even as the news scrolled over the last day, the rich theology and beauty of “This is My Father’s World” kept pouring into my head, and heart, and mouth.

As you go throughout the next few days, remember these five powerful words with me…and perhaps keep the words and tune of this song in your soul:

            This is my Father's world.

            O let me ne'er forget

            that though the wrong seems oft so strong,

            God is the ruler yet.

Cody McNutt