It has been one full week since the horrific shooting event that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I deliberately waited to speak about this particular event because it has become such a hot button issue within the media and stirring debates that are not helpful at this time. However, in light of all of the debate that is taking place, I felt it was important that I share some thoughts about how the Church should be responding to this event; especially in light of the fact that it has been the 11th such mass shooting on school grounds since Columbine.
Let The Church Be The Church: What I first want to point out with this tragedy, as should be with any tragedy, the Church should be the Church. What I mean by this is simply that the call of the Church has been simply defined as being lovers of God and lovers of their neighbors. In the context of the second aspect here, loving one’ neighbor is being present with a shoulder to cry on, consoling hurting families where possible, and sacrificing resources as necessary so that these hurting families experience a tangible expression of God’s love.
Nowhere is this more evident than through the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the people of a man who was attacked and left for dead. However, in this parable, Jesus points out that both a priest and a Levite ignored the man by crossing over to the other side of the road. Then, Jesus points to this Samaritan, who by all accounts had nothing to gain by stopping, yet, was compassionate in doing so. This was even to the extent of taking on the debt of whatever care was required to nurse the man back to health.
Agents of Peace: The author of Hebrews states that the Church is supposed to pursue peace and holiness with everyone, for without it, no one will see God (see Hebrews 12:14). The word peace in its original Greek is defined to mean harmony or concord. Holiness, in its original Greek is defined to mean a purity of heart. As agents of peace, the Church should seek harmony within the greater community that it exists, with a pure heart, so that there is an accord between the Church and the community.
When tragedy comes, it is not the time to lash out in anger or become political. People are hurting. Families are in mourning. Many who have been left with the task of rebuilding need the strength of the Church to provide comfort to fill the void in the wake of lost lives and hearts that may not know how to deal with exactly how to pick up those pieces.
The school of over 3000 students has to find a way to re-enter the place they once believed was a safe haven for learning. As agents of peace and holiness, the Church can show itself as a good neighbor by providing counseling for teachers, students, and the families who must carry on. Depression, Post Traumatic stress can creep up on those closest to the danger. Being an emotional buffer that people can look to in the wake of lost friends and teachers.
None of what I’m suggesting is to the exclusion of political action, or social justice. The reality is that the Church needs to remember its first call to love. If the Church will simply be the Church in the community in which tragedy arises, the expectations of the community will be one of trust and acknowledgment that the Church can be a go to place to make sense of senseless situations.
QUESTION: What do you believe the call of the Church should be in the midst of tragedies? Is there more that should be expected from the Church? What would that be?