I awoke very early Sunday morning with a distinct sense in my heart to pray. I’ve learned to listen to those promptings of the Holy Spirit, so, at 3:30 a.m., I rolled out of bed. The news of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, the day before—along with the shootings last Sunday in northern California, 30 miles from my home—was heavy on my mind. I checked my iPhone news feeds as I drank my first cup of coffee, and again, my heart broke to read of another mass shooting early that morning in Dayton, Ohio.
How it must hurt the heart of our Heavenly Father to see people hating and hurting one another!
In the predawn hours I found myself crying out to the Lord, both for comfort for those impacted by these senseless killings and for mercy for our nation. During the many years I was involved in ministry in Africa, I spoke on numerous occasions with those whose lives had been deeply impacted by senseless violence. As I prayed, I found myself wondering what was becoming of our nation.
Hatred and violence have been a part of the fallen human condition since Cain killed his brother Abel in the early chapters of Genesis. The pages of history recount story after story of tragedy and violence against precious people created in the image of God. How it must hurt the heart of our Heavenly Father to see people hating and hurting one another!
As events like those of the past week continue, politicians and news pundits debate what needs to be done to curb this increasing flood of violence in America. In the early morning hours on Sunday I asked myself: how do we, as the people of God, respond to such tragic events in our day?
Let me suggest two essential responses.
Humility and prayer
If there ever was a time for the people of God to humble themselves and pray, it is today! The depravity of the human heart is beyond any law or governmental jurisdiction to fully control. The redeeming, life-changing power of the gospel is the ultimate answer to the brokenness, hatred and violence in the world around us. A cry to the Lord for a spiritual awakening in America should be front and center in our prayers. The sovereign Lord of the universe is the One who is able to work powerfully in the midst of the most difficult of situations.
We must pray for comfort and healing for those who have suffered injuries and the loss of loved ones, peace for those who now live in fear of what could happen to them and their families within their own communities, and transformation, through Christ, for those who are consumed with hatred or racism that could lead them to future acts of violence.
It is time we stand out in our world as those who are like Jesus, full of grace and truth.
The Scriptures are clear that the Lord has established governments for our good (Rom 13:4), and the Apostle Paul exhorts us in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to pray for those in authority, that “we might live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” It is of great importance that we join our hearts to pray for those leading our nation on local, state and federal levels. Pray the Lord will grant them wisdom in seeking ways to curb violence in our land so that we may live peaceful lives.
With actions and in truth
Now is the time for us to live and love like Jesus as we interact with those around us. Anger, disrespect and hate-filled speech are far too common in society today. We see it from the halls of government to the airwaves of television and radio to the internet and social media to the street corners and coffee shops of our communities. People speak in ways that denigrate others and demonstrate attitudes that are not representative of the heart of Jesus. These types of attitudes and words have no place among God’s people! Hatred, racism, xenophobia and white supremacy are very real in America today. We must stand against these things in our culture.
It is time we stand out in our world as those who are like Jesus, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Our words need to be filled with grace (Col 4:6) as we speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Be careful not to get caught up in the attitudes and speech patterns of our world. Guard both the words you speak and the words you post on social media, blogs and online comments. People post or comment on blogs and social media things they would not say face-to-face to someone. Remember your words and attitudes are really a reflection of your heart (Mark 7:21). As the writer of Proverbs says in 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Speak the truth, but always do it with love and grace not anger and spite.
Now is certainly not a time to lose heart and live in fear. It is rather a time for the people of God to shine like lights in a dark world.
Let’s take the Apostle John’s admonition to heart when he writes, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). One of the most powerful ways we can make an impact in our world is both to speak words filled with grace and to live in ways that demonstrate the loving heart of Jesus. As the people of God, let’s make a commitment to inject kindness and the love of Jesus into the interactions we have with others, helping where we can and encouraging where there is opportunity. Each step along the way, point people to Jesus—the only One who can heal the brokenness and hurt in their hearts. Look for someone today to whom you can tangibly show the kindness and compassion of Jesus.
As you reflect on these things, ask the Lord to show you the attitudes, words and actions of which you need to repent. Humble yourself before the Lord, seek His forgiveness and take action today to make a difference in your world for Jesus.
A prayer for healing
Now is certainly not a time to lose heart and live in fear. It is rather a time for the people of God to shine like lights in a dark world (Phil 2:15) as we cry out in prayerful dependence on the Lord while we love and live like Jesus.
Holy Father, my heart is heavy as I reflect on the pain and loss of those impacted by the horrific violence in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton. Please bring comfort, peace and healing to those whose lives have been devastated by these senseless acts. May they know your loving presence in deep and personal ways these days.
May our attitudes, words and actions reflect the loving heart of the Savior as we interact with those around us.
How you must grieve over the brokenness of our nation as you see anger and hatred seething among us. We have lost a sense of the incredible value of every human life as precious, created in your image. Lord, we confess that we are sinful and broken people, desperately in need of your mercy and grace. Our nation needs healing only you can bring!
Lord, we humble ourselves before you today and cry out to you for mercy. Forgive us for the ways our lives have not reflected the heart of Jesus to those around us. Oh, how we need a fresh move of your Holy Spirit among us!
Grant us the courage and grace to live and love like Jesus in the midst of our broken world. May our attitudes, words and actions reflect the loving heart of the Savior as we interact with those around us. Give us eyes to see others like you see them and hearts to love them like you love them. Most of all, grant us opportunities to point people to Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. In Jesus' name, Amen.