Responding to terror
Another murderous attack by a suicide bomber has shocked the UK. What should our response be as Christians?
This time it was in Manchester, which seems close to home to all of us. The news is full of personal tragedies: ordinary families where a child or parent, enjoying a concert, is suddenly, tragically and painfully killed or injured. Like the psalmist we might say “Why did you let it happen, Lord?” or “When will you judge the murderers?
We have seen varying responses from political and community leaders. Some demand greater police or armed services presence, although security experts suggest that such attacks are usually prevented by intelligence and informers. Some talk of war on terrorists even though that might give publicity and credibility to terrorists, which is just what terrorists crave. Some argue for treating terrorists simply as murderers, although that can degenerate into seeking vengeance in a way that repeats the cycle. Some emphasise the importance of a dignified period of mourning and standing together as a community.
It has been heart warming to see the spontaneous responses of members of the local communities in Manchester, to gather and show respect and solidarity, often with flowers. There is a healthy, instinctive response of human beings to stand together and support one another. It is the way God created us.
But is there more that we as Christians can offer the community around us? Of all people we who have received the love of God should be more able to show love: “We love because He first loved us” (John 4:19).
What does this mean in practice? I suggest three things:
We can show compassion and concern for the bereaved and injured, and pray for them, inviting not just a human solidarity but a supernatural comfort.
We can listen carefully and actively to those who are struggling, not quick to offer solutions or explanations but patiently listening and asking questions to help people express grief and bewilderment.
We can live and speak in a way that shows our trust for God whatever He may lead us through, whatever the circumstances.
Our faith is tested in many ways. Sometimes it is tested simply by the challenges of those around, such as “How could a loving God let it happen?” In a tragedy, there is usually not the time or emotional space to explain this theologically. But we can be examples of hope and trust in the face of trouble.
“Count it all joy,” James says, “when you face trials of various kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3) This is the opposite of so much in the culture around us and so different from the way many would respond to terror.
And by our praying and concern we can help others encounter God’s love – we do not have to give in to anger or despair, because we have received the love of God.
“Blessed be … the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction…” (2 Cor 1:3-4)