The violence and terror that many people in the world endure on a daily basis, visited our shores again a few days ago. A young man, his head filled with hatred for anyone who didn’t share his poisonous Islamist ideology, detonated a bomb at a pop concert killing 22 and injuring many more. Many of them were children; the youngest just 8 years of age. We are rightly filled with rage at such attacks. These were wicked and inexcusable acts and were rightly condemned.
But condemnation only goes so far. What we really want to know is, ‘How can we stop attacks like this happening again?’
Of course there is no easy answer, and certainly no short term fix. But I’d like to suggest two things.
The first is to live lives of active love, showing the same kind of love and compassion we saw right after the attack. As people fled the scene in fear and confusion, hotels provided free shelter; strangers opened their homes; taxi drivers turned off their meters and offered free lifts home. In those acts we saw something far more powerful than bombs; we saw love in action. A love that took no notice of colour or gender or creed. A love gave and did not count the cost.
Love like this can transform hatred and bring something beautiful out of tragedy and grief. And of course that kind of love is straight from the Bible. It’s the love of the Good Samaritan caring for the wounded traveller in Jesus’ famous parable. But, more perfectly, it’s the kind of love demonstrated by the ultimate Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ, who not only gave his love, his time and compassion but his very life, that sinners like us might be forgiven and have eternal life.
The tragedy is that it takes a tragedy for this kind of love to be noticed. But as Christians we are called to love like this all the time: to love without limits, to cross boundaries of culture and class with the good news of Jesus and to forgive as we have been forgiven. Like Jesus we are to reach out in love and mercy to the lonely, the lost and the marginalised; to those who are different, to those who hate us, even to those of whom we might be afraid.
But love, even this kind of love isn’t enough. So secondly we must also tell the gospel, because only the gospel message of Jesus can transform hearts, free prisoners and bring real hope and real change. Those affected by these atrocities need to hear of Jesus’ redeeming love, but those enslaved by this wicked ideology, and those in danger of being drawn into it, also need to hear of Christ and his gospel. The plans of governments, however well-intentioned, cannot hold back this tide, but the gospel of Jesus can. It’s the only thing that ever really has.