The Christian Response to Mass Bloodshed
Last month we remembered 9/11. I imagine Paris remembers its big attack in 2015. It seems every month there is a report of a new terrorist attack here or abroad, whether by an organization or some lone wolf. These horrible events often create an array of emotions and thoughts, some of which are proper and others sinful. So, what is a Christian understanding and response to terrorist attacks?
Anytime there is a disaster, whether it is manmade (wars and terrorism) or ‘God-made’ (earthquakes and tsunamis), it is a reminder of the final end of this fallen world and all its kingdoms–France, ISIS, and America included. This world is sinful, fallen and passing away— a final day is coming—Judgment Day. As we end the church year next month, we will hear several readings/lessons in the Divine Service from Jesus telling us the signs of the end times. Similarly, as we begin Advent and the new church year in December, we are also reminded of the advent of Christ in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Jesus tells us in His word that before the end, there will be earthquakes and wars, so be alert, awake, and on guard.
Yes, these signs warn us of the end, but they also call us all to repentance. Listen to Jesus explain a similar event resulting in many deaths: There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”1
These types of signs remind us that we are sinners, as we sing in the hymn, “all mankind fell in Adam’s fall and one common sin infects us all.” The fall into sin and the fallen world leaves blood on our hands—we are not innocent. By nature, we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, as we confess at the start of every Divine Service. These signs should lead us to confess that we are all by nature sinful and unclean, from jihadists to Americans—all deserving God’s vengeance. Remember, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone for any and all of us—apart from any merit or worthiness in me.
Disasters usually have first responders, and the first Christian response to disasters should be to repent. Repentance is what keeps us ready for Jesus’ final advent. These signs graciously call us to repentance so we are ready.
Sometimes our first response is like Jesus’ disciples when traveling through a Samaritan village that rejected Jesus. They said, “Should we call down fire from heaven right now?” Jesus response is, no. [Luke 9:51-56 ESV]  When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him.  But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.  And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”  But he turned and rebuked them.  And they went on to another village.
Yes, sometimes we are quick to pray for vengeance, but vengeance is the Lord’s, in His time, not ours. The same village that initially rejected Jesus ended up repenting later in the book of Acts—thanks be to God for His patience with us sinners. Additionally, Christ died for all, including terrorists. He earnestly and patiently wants them to repent and be saved from hell too. Since this is God’s will, we should pray according to it, “Thy kingdom of grace come to us and to all”, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. Do note, that there are many Muslims that are being converted to Christianity! (See: https://www.poblo.org/ ) Like Saul to Paul, we should give thanks!
Does this mean we have to be hippy-pacifists? No, but there are some distinctions that must be made. First, God does punish evil doers temporally through legitimate governments. It is God’s will that governments give temporal consequences and fight just wars. So, it is also a Christian response to pray for world leaders, governments, soldiers, police officers, judges—that they bring evil doers, murderers and terrorists to justice. We don’t want governments pardoning criminals. God’s Law must serve as a curb and deterrent to huge outbreaks of sin. Also, law and order are good and God pleasing things to pray for, for the benefit of our neighbor who would be hurt or harmed in his body. And, law and order, allow Christians to live a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence. As to say, if jihad and murder were legal in America with no temporal consequences, then we probably could not peaceful meet on Sunday mornings to receive the Lord’s gifts.
So, keep in mind the distinction between temporal and eternal punishments, and who the Lord has put in the offices to punish and forgive. The government, not us, bears the sword, and all who live by the sword die by the sword. Remember Peter? The Kingdom of heaven is not advanced by the sword, but by the sword of the Spirit—God’s Word. The Church is sent, not to punish temporally, but to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations.
May all murders and terrorists be captured and punished temporally. But, may they, and all who currently reject Jesus, escape eternal punishment by hearing and believing the Gospel of Jesus, Who advented the first time to live, die, and rise for ALL. May we too continue to hear, repent, and believe the Gospel via the advent of Jesus in the Divine Service all the days of our lives, so that we are ready for the final advent of Christ and our final deliverance from this fallen God-hating world.
See the signs of the final end in these events, baptized friends. When you hear or see mass bloodshed, repent and find comfort in the One Who shed His blood on the cross for us and all. And, by God’s grace in, with, and under the means of grace, endure to the end and be saved.
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