I am, as we all are, deeply saddened by the recent violence in Manchester, England. I have to say, though, i am nearly as deeply troubled by some of the responses i have read and heard from folks here, both famous and "ordinary," who profess to be Christians. They lament the wanton and senseless murder, especially since the targets were mainly young people, and offer prayers on their behalf. Good - that's what they should do. What so often follows next, though, is exactly what Christians should not do - their calls for equally violent retaliations. One of my own friends said, in response to another friend's support for "putting them all 6 ft under," "God knows if I was in charge I be asking the scientists if we can collect the oil in radiation suits?"
Knowing him as i do, i know this was meant to be a joking way to deal with the awful reality of the death of these children, and if i'm honest, i understand his feelings. This horrific murder of children makes me furious, and fury can turn quickly hate and to thoughts of violent retribution. I recognize that part of me that would want to give into those feelings, that wants to do something to make sure this never happens again and that the people responsible are held to account for what they did.
But then i remember that i am a follower of Jesus, that i want to be his disciple, and i remember what he taught us - unequivocally - "I say to you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:27-28). Jesus commands us not to give into those first dark thoughts that come to mind in the face of violence and hatred but instead to love, do good, bless, and pray. He offers us no exceptions or exemptions to this command, no easy way out.
When i suggested to my friends that their response was not only not likely to work but was also at odds with what we profess to believe, i was told that was fine for me but not for them. Then they gave me the oft used Edmond Burke quotation, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Jesus, however, does not tell us to do nothing, quite the opposite in fact. He tells us to love and to pray - two actions that are, in the end, both efficacious and irresistible.
The simple fact is this - the only truly Christian response to the situation in Manchester and all those others like it is to love and to pray. We can have our anger and our desire for vengeance, but then we set them aside and turn towards Jesus. And if we think we simply cannot bring ourselves either to pray for or to love our enemies, then we pray for ourselves, for God to give us the desire to pray for them and, finally, to love them. It may not be quick or easy and make us feel good, but Jesus doesn't promise us any of those things; he only promises us eternal life.