What happened in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 1 did not stay in Vegas. The horrific acts of one gunman quickly spread across the nation as people offered blood, sweat, and tears to help a traumatized city. Fifty-nine families felt the sting of death. More than 500 keep vigils as their loved ones fight for their lives. Police continue to search for a motive; the rest of us clamor for answers.
The dust hasn’t quite settled and sadly, it only took 24 hours for “thoughts and prayers” to turn to anger, political posturing, and bickering.
Even Christ followers may find it difficult to see God amid the devastation. Where was God when the shots rang out? Where is He now? Why were some spared and others were not? What’s our next step as a body of believers and a nation? As we work our way through the collateral damage of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, let us remember that tragedy calls for tenderness. Here are a few thoughts to ponder.
- We are all connected (Romans 12:5). When one person in the body of Christ is hurting, others should hurt, too. The same applies to our fellow Americans. The common denominator? Christ made us all in his image. A compassionate response involves coming alongside someone and suffering with them in their grief. Individuals are only capable of compassion when they see the common thread of Christ among each of us. (Also, the gunman had a family who is reeling from his hateful actions. Few, if any, will come alongside them and offer support. Perhaps our prayers can include that family as well.)
- Prayers matter (Ephesians 3:20). “Thoughts and prayers” are all many of us can offer when tragedy strikes, as this Christianity Today article suggests. However, let’s remember we don’t do humanity any favors when we deny the power of God. Prayers imploring God to mend hearts and heal bodies are never wasted. Shame on anyone who tells you otherwise.
- Bad things will happen (John 16:33). When looking at the powder keg events of the last two months, I am disappointed with the number of Christian leaders who claim “the church is not doing enough.” Hogwash. Although the church must honestly assess what it’s doing well and what it could do better to show Jesus to the world, the world’s problems will not disintegrate just because we exist. Jesus told us this world would have trouble. Jesus also declared He had overcome it. Honest assessments of the church’s effectiveness are needed, but anyone who wants to disgrace fellow believers for not “doing enough” can kindly move along.
- Don’t politicize the event (Matthew 5). I expect politicians, pundits, and Hollywood types to capitalize on tragedy for political gain. However, their depravity should never invade the pews. Christians are called to a higher standard. When time has passed it’s time for action, choose your strategy prayerfully and carefully. Research on your own. Educate yourself. Talk to others in the know. Refrain from parroting mainstream media headlines. When it comes to face-to-face conversations or social media posts, we must share, comment, or retweet only after thorough research.
- Senseless events rarely have logical explanations. Trying to sort out the inner workings of a madman will never alleviate grief and suffering. Platitudes rarely work. Although it’s important for law enforcement to investigate what led up to the tragedy and try to prevent another one, often we are quick to scramble for any reason to explain it. It’s as if we can somehow lessen the blow if we can just find a pat explanation. Sometimes endings on earth are left unwritten. God will add the final chapter on His timetable.
- Be water, not gasoline. Campfires can be a great source of beauty and comfort. However, when they burn outside their designated area, the results are devastating. Accusations and harsh words only fuel the fire. The Las Vegas mass shooting has the potential to turn into a blazing inferno, but Jesus said He is living water. When that living water fills us up, it can put out fires with compassion, patience, humility, and forgiveness.
When tragedy strikes, the Body of Christ has the privilege of bearing each other’s burdens. We are called to lift each other up, not tear each other down.
If we consistently and continually keep these things in mind, the world will take notice. When it does, it will see reflections of a Savior who grieves alongside them.