Like everyone else in the watching world, my mind and heart have been weighing heavily what happened in Paris. I couldn’t sleep last night.
Yesterday, during my last break at work, I received a text from my mom notifying me of the attacks. I immediately took to google to mine the internet for reports. The first thing I read was a firsthand account of someone who survived the concert hall shooting. Horrific. Heading back to work was gnarly after absorbing the magnitude of what went down. All the perturbances residing in the circumstantial minutia of work that cause me stress on the daily melted away. Grieving mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, neighbors…the untold number of empty, bleeding bodies laying quietly in the streets underneath the thunderous violence – bodies which were once animated with life, totally unaware that yesterday would be their last – Paris was the new headline of my heart. My first world problems became first world nothings. Still in the midst of my own grief, it was natural for me to embrace Paris. To sit in the heavy silence and cry with them. To yell in anger and demand justice with them. It was the anger that led me down the rabbit hole…
“What are Paris’ gun laws?” I wondered. (Answer: Here). All I know is if I was in that theater, I would have wished I had a weapon on me so I could end the terror (Sheepdog mentality). At the very least, I would hope someone else did (Sheep mentality). Violence doesn’t always have to be hateful…it can be loving – executed with a heavy heart – for the sake of protection. The goal isn’t to kill. It’s to stop the killer from killing. To preserve life. To make sure husbands can still hug their wives and daughters can still be held by their fathers. I place myself in that situation and I have no idea what I would do. As I sit here in my cozy suburban home, in a quiet room overlooking a quiet street lined with lush trees and kids playing…I ask myself…who am I kidding? I know what I would want to do….but I don’t know what I would actually do. I’m safe and I always have been. Vain imaginations….but who knows? One day, this may spill onto my streets. The kids may not be playing anymore…they may be hiding in fear. Bombs may replace the fireworks bursting over Disneyland. I may be scampering to find my gun to protect my family. It is with this thought that I started to think about what humans have had to endure throughout history and how they met their cruel ends.
Of the Christians who were publicly executed in first century Rome, of the poor people who were kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured and murdered in the Holocaust by Nazi Germany, of ISIS – born of meddling Western aggression – ransacking villages, systematically executing men, women and children without discrimination…the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) kidnapping children after forcing them to murder their families in Uganda. The Crusades. The African slave trade and subsequent lynchings. 9/11. Columbine, Sandy Hook and all the school shootings. The list goes on and on. Horrific atrocities perpetuated upon unsuspecting people over and over again. I can’t comprehend this. The weight is too much for me to bear as a finite man limited in power and resources. And yet, I can’t escape the thought that I may see this same thing happen to me and my kin in my lifetime. Even still, as student of Jesus, I am left with more questions than answers. I don’t want to bend to the world’s way of doing things – eye for eye and tooth for tooth. The God-man who went willingly to the cross chastised His disciples for attempting to prevent him from being arrested with these words “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” And He didn’t stop there. He went on to remind them of the power He possessed but refused to use, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” This same Man, who I follow, tells me to turn the other cheek…to love my enemies. But do I let my enemies kill my family? My neighbors? When their ideology values their tribe’s survival above everyone else’s? Doesn’t “Love always protect“? So do I lay down in willful submission, allowing violence to be perpetuated on my family and neighbor or do I fight to protect those I love? And irony of ironies, isn’t my enemy to be included in “those I love”? I’m caught in the tension.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
Another thing I’ve been considering since waking up this morning….Why am I so quick to identify with Paris but not other terror afflicted regions of the world? My wife and I don’t watch the news. Why? Because it’s a constant bombardment of negativity that we can’t control. I used to immerse myself in the headlines but I developed a savior complex and that’s paralyzing because it’s delusional. No man or woman is able to bear the burden of a bleeding world outside of their own walls. This being said, we were aloof to the 43 human beings who were killed by suicide bombers last month in Nigeria. I check my facebook on the daily and I had no idea. I never saw #IamNigeria or #PrayForNigeria. No Nigerian flag profile picture overlays were offered to me by facebook. And what about the bombing in Lebanon? Where were the #IamLebanon or #PrayforLebanon posts? Again, I never saw them and both of these incidents happened recently. Aren’t we all brothers and sisters in humanity? Could it be that Paris is on our radar because they’re most like us? Because France is (it can be argued) our European sister? If it could happen to them…it could happen to us. But the underdeveloped countries…who blinks an eye? Perhaps we’re too busy playing house – safeguarding our kingdoms…where our way of life is what we feel is more precious than people. Maybe in our heart of hearts, we discriminate between the rich and the impoverished, the industrialized and the agrarian without realizing it? Maybe this is an unfair false dichotomy and we truly grieve for both. It doesn’t have to be either/or. It is both/and.
With this being said…now what?
Absolutely my heart breaks for Paris and I pray for them now as I would my own family…but *not just* for Paris but for the world over. According to the world death clock, 153,000 people died yesterday. Are we mindful of them too? Where I may be completely impotent in my efforts to help my brothers and sisters abroad, I am not impotent to love those in close proximity to me – or to empower those who can reach out and make a difference where I cannot. I can make a one time donation to the Red Cross and hope it makes a difference. Then what? What about tomorrow? What about the untold number of people hurting in silence everyday – the ones I turn away from because to care would cost me my precious time and energy? I can pray for people I don’t know but be a complete jerk to the people I do know. How do I treat the server at the restaurants I dine at? The “bum” on the street holding an empty cup? My co-workers? My literal neighbors? Our widows and orphans? Our suffering vets? Whoever… Jesus made murder and hate equivalent. And the meaning of hate? It’s not literal ‘againstness’ but rather intentional ignorance…avoidance…indifference. To treat someone with irrelevance…as if they didn’t exist (thus the equivalence). So…who do I ignore? Maybe I am a murderer in my own heart after all? If the same jerk who cut me off on the freeway was bleeding in the streets of Paris would I pass by as a Levite or a Priest? Would I secretly thank God for swift justice (as I see it) …or would I stop and tend to his wounds out of compassion as the Good Samaritan? As God tends to mine? Now what about the Syrian refugee?
At the end of the day, there is only one hashtag I endorse and it’s not #JeSuisParis. Yes I am…but no I’m not…because it’s bigger than that. #JeSuisToi.
I am you.
And more importantly, He was Us.
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