In Times of Tragedy I Like to Keep it Simple, “WWJD?”

Ripples in Water      Once again, a Tuesday morning finds me at my desk pondering the effects of a national tragedy. This is made even more challenging as it falls on the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings. Regardless of the situation, it seems that each time evil makes its’ face known in the world we are drawn to questions of, “why and what now?” This is of course a natural reaction to the world around us being out of control. Yesterday’s bombing in Boston is another in a long string of man-made disasters. Like those before, yesterday’s events are a personal tragedy for those directly affected, yet the reach is far greater. Like the ripples in a pond, the effect of this event reaches out and shakes the psyche of a city, nation and world.
     In previous articles I have reflected on the why of events like this. Today, I want to draw us into a conversation about the “what now”? Following any event of this magnitude there is always a bump in action. We all become more aware of things around us. We might even become more patient with security check points and the TSA. Calls to tip lines light up with reports of strange activities by neighbors and friends.
      I will leave the physical and national security issues to the professionals. Rather, I would remind us to be extremely thankful that these incidents are as few and far between. Reflections on Margaret Thatcher’s life reminded me of just how frequently people are targets of violence around the world. This doesn’t minimize the pain of families nor does it lower our anxiety over terror. Nonetheless, we are blessed to have good people working diligently to foil terror plots on a daily basis. I am thankful everyday that I don’t have to know some of the things many of my friends, neighbors and parishioners must know.
     Even with all the work of those who are in the fields of public safety and national security, the fact remains that if evil wants to manifest itself in the world it will. No matter how many attempts we make to ensure attacks don’t happen, the power of terror is that it only takes one success to work. One bomb blast can take away our sense of security and shake our trust in government or God.

Still, time and time again when people are attacked, the power of God is often invoked and counted upon. This is a natural “what now” response. When evil is clear, we seek the clearest example of good, the God of all Creation. I was talking with someone about God and evil, and I reminded him that as we read Scripture and see God working in our lives, the overall affirmation is that God is for us. As Paul reminds us, no matter how much evil seeks to separate us from the love of God, it can’t. Our response to yesterday’s attack and every other instance of evil in the world should be to seek God.
      Truth be told, I think that if we only engage in the act of seeking God, it is in some ways a selfish response to events like this. In particular if we are on farther reaches of the ripples of the event. I believe that especially when we are removed from the direct effect of the violence we have a calling to be transformed from just seekers of God’s comfort to those who embody it. Often our response to evil is to invoke the “eye for an eye” mentality. In times such as this we are called to do something completely different. Our calling as follower of Christ is to be the Body of Christ. The often trite question, “What would Jesus do?” might just be the best guide in the midst of tragedy. How would Christ himself live out the incarnation on a day following such radical evil?
      This may seem too simplistic for some. After all “WWJD?” is in outdated youth group bracelet, not an informative spiritual practice. I say, hogwash! It is precisely in times of tragedy that we need to seek a simple discipline to help us navigate the complex emotions and spiritual questions. Ultimately explaining why evil is in the world is great and helps us, but right now the world needs to reflect on how do we respond to evil. What would Jesus do in response to evil in the world and how can we live into that reality.
      God has shown us exactly how Jesus responds to Evil. Christ responds with love. Today, we are called to love. Love friend and enemy. We are called to show that love both near and far. Perhaps we are being called to cause a few ripples ourselves. Ripples of Love that disrupt the ripples of evil and ultimately bring life and light into the darkness.

Lord God, help us be the Body of Christ, showing his love to all. May the love you have towards us radiate out into the darkest realms of this world. AMEN.