This world we live in is a pretty jacked-up place. Amidst the beauty and joy exists what seems to be bottomless supplies of pain and brokenness and tragedy. Look no further than Friday’s horrific attacks on Paris. The pain is unimaginable. Maddening.
So what do we do? Well, we pray. Or we don’t because surely a GOOD God wouldn’t allow such tragedy. And we stay glued to media coverage. Or we don’t because it’s just too painful. We change our Facebook pictures to the French flag in a stance of solidarity. Or we don’t because it seems just too trite.
“Not them, not France,” some yell in disbelief. Meanwhile, others point to Lebanon. Nigeria. Syria. Pakistan. Kenya. “Yes, France. And also, THEM!” they reply, heads hung low in sorrow and frustration.
Engaging this broken world isn’t easy. There is no one-size-fits-all response to every awful news story we hear. And the discrepancy in our collective response to the mass killings across the globe makes total sense. Because Paris, it hits close to home. Many of us have walked the Champs-Élysées or have always dreamt of doing so. We watch the faces of the mourning Parisians and can catch a glimpse of ourselves in them. We point to history and alliances and the Statue of Liberty. What it comes down to is that we see them as one of us.
The Middle East and Africa? For so many of us, it just seems so hard to relate. Here’s the thing, though. If we claim to follow Christ, we’re called to love all. Not just those to whom we easily relate. Not just those who live in the first world. Or those who look like, act like, worship like us. So, I don’t know- maybe we’re being inconsistent if we’re heaping all of our sympathy and solidarity on “our people” rather than “those people”.
Y’all, I’m working through this myself. I, too, have found myself doing a heart check as I’ve responded and reacted to recent events. I’m not saying we need to live our lives in perpetual mourning over every sad, bad, or evil thing in this world. But I guess what I am suggesting is this- what if we were to make deliberate steps to make “those people” more like “our people”? What if we, as Christians, are known as those who step outside of what’s comfortable to step into the lives of others? Others whose lives may stand in sharp contrast to ours.
Just yesterday, my six year old begged for chores. There are always baseboards to clean, so she spent her morning scrubbing- one determined little girl on mission. You see, Mary Grace has learned the hard truth that there are kids in her school- in her class- who don’t have enough food at home to fill their bellies. That these kids rely on donated food sent home each weekend via the school’s “backpack buddies” program. This notion has preoccupied her. Wrecked her. Prompted her to meticulously pick out cans and boxes of imperishables and surrender a fistful of hard-earned dollars to the cashier yesterday.
Why? The churchy response I’d like to offer is that she loved because Jesus loved her first. But truthfully, in this case, she did so because it’s become personal. She attends a school where many of her peers don’t look like her. Whose homes and pantries aren’t like hers. “Those people” have become “her people”. Those hungry bellies belong to her buddies.
I believe that we absolutely should be making deliberate efforts to be in relationship with people who are unlike us. Let’s make it personal. We who call ourselves Christ-followers are to be people of peace and reconciliation and love to all. For the love, let’s be consistent in what we preach and what we practice. So that when we overflow with love and support for Paris- AS WE ABSOLUTELY SHOULD- we don’t leave the rest of the aching world wondering, “where were they when we were hurting?”
Church, I believe we have our work cut out for us. We’ve had our biases and blinders on for so long. But we have hope. Hope that, ultimately, it’s the gospel that breaks down every single wall that divides us. And that, at the end of our days, the redemption of the world does not rest on our shoulders but on the One who came. The One who came for ALL.