Massive evil clouds our understanding and covers us with ashes of anger. The images of burning and collapsing buildings now forever etched on our souls leave the nation thick-tongued and tired.
Those in the Christian community have little clear perspective save that of Jesus. And in times of such horrific violence and unspeakable sadness, his teachings must be the guiding rule.
In the Sermon on the Mount, we find seven clear touchstones for this painful, bewildering time. We would do well to remember the words of Jesus and to recite them. Recall that Jesus said:
1. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
2. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
3. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
4. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
5. “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
6. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.”
7. “Everyone … who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who builds his house on rock.”
Jesus’ wisdom and witness must set our course in this very sinful world where evil multiplies evil, anger feeds anger, injustice breeds injustice, vengeance begets vengeance.
All too soon, some within our society will speak in terms of holy war, hunting campaigns and quick strikes. When the public discourse turns from grief to retaliation, the community of faith must offer a different language and articulate different solutions.
When some rush towards revenge, those of faith must be slow to speak about retribution. When some quickly denounce Muslims and demonize them, we must avoid the false witness that universalizes harmful attributes to those of different religions. When some seek purely military solutions, we must recognize the sad duty to use force to establish justice in a sinful world. When some ignore the social soil that nourishes hate, we must seek the welfare of the poor and oppressed.
Let us begin now to till the soil and to plant the seeds for peace and justice for all.
Robert Parham is BCE’s executive director.
Robert M. Parham (1953 – 2017) was the founder and executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics from 1991 to 2017. He served as executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, BCE’s website, from its launch in 2002 until 2017.