Thus says the LORD: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the LORD.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 NRSV
On Sunday a suicide bomber targeted a park in Lahore, Pakistan that was filled with families celebrating Easter. More than sixty people died and dozens more were injured. Most of the dead and injured were women and children…and Muslim.
It feels like whenever you turn on the news, there’s some new story about a terrorist attack. Last week it was Brussels. The sad thing is that the majority of terrorist attacks, especially in places outside the scope and interest of Western media, never even make the twenty-four hour news cycle. Dozens of people are dying on a weekly basis and we’re only hearing half of it, if as much.
In the face of this reality, it’s hard not to lose hope. It feels like an endless onslaught: women and men so determined, demented, to make a point that they will devastate parks, city streets, markets, airports, train terminals. On Twitter an atheist comedian I follow retweeted the Pope’s Easter tweet – one celebrating the light of Christ in the world – and essentially asked, Really? It’s not hard to see where that comes from. It’s not hard to wonder, in the aftermath of events like the bombings in Lahore and Brussels, where God’s hand is. After all, we’ve just spent a week proclaiming, Death where is thy sting?
That’s part of what the terrorists want, of course. The timing of these last two attacks isn’t a coincidence. They want us to think that theirs is an insurmountable threat; that there’s no use fighting them; that they are winning their war, though whether it’s primarily a religious or an economic one is debatable. They want us to be hopeless. They want us to doubt that empty tomb and the goodness and the power of the man who was laid there. They want to numb us, blind us, render us insensate with savagery and murder.
So we can ask this question – Why does God allow this to happen? – and follow it up with the simple fact that God doesn’t; that the world is fallen, riddled with evil and sin, and that its ruler is waging a war against us; or we can ask a more useful question: What are we going to do about it? If terrorists are so keen to numb us, to render us apathetic, we must conclude that they are threatened by empathy, hope, prayer, love, fellowship, and humanity. And while most of us cannot fight them directly, we can fight against the things they want to inspire. We need only resist the Devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7).
Are we prepared, though, to bring the fight to them on this? To counter evil with good? To meet curses with blessings, apathy with feeling, hatred with compassion, war with the peace of Christ? Are we prepared to fall to our knees in the midst of this angry world and call on the God who acts with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness? Are we prepared to intercede against those invisible rulers and cosmic powers Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:12?
If so, I hope you will pray with me:
God of mercy, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
in the midst of unfolding violence and the aftermath of terror and loss, we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.
In these days of fearful danger and division, we need to believe somehow that your kingdom of peace in which all nations and tribes and languages dwell together in peace is still a possibility.
Give us hope and courage that we may not yield our humanity to fear, even in these endless days of dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death.
We pray for neighbours in Paris, in Beirut, in Baghdad, in Lahore, Brussels, Nigeria, Syria, who, in the midst of the grace of ordinary life–while at work, or at play, have been violently assaulted, their lives cut off without mercy.
We are hostages of fear, caught in an escalating cycle of violence whose end can not be seen.
We open our hearts in anger, sorrow and hope: that those who have been spared as well as those whose lives are changed forever may find solace, sustenance, and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come. We give thanks for strangers who comfort the wounded and who welcome stranded strangers, for first responders who run toward the sound of gunfire and into the smoke and fire of bombing sites.
Once again, Holy One, we cry, how long, O Lord? We seek forgiveness for the ways in which we have tolerated enmity and endured cultures of violence with weary resignation. We grieve the continued erosion of the fabric of our common life, the reality of fear that warps the common good. We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost and maimed, in body or spirit.
We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among global and national agencies and individuals assessing threat and directing relief efforts; and for our anger and sorrow to unite in service to the establishment of a reign of peace, where the lion and the lamb may dwell together, and terror will not hold sway over our common life.
In these days of shock and sorrow, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.
In the name of Christ, our healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.
(Adapted from here.)