On June 12, I started the day with my normal Sunday morning routine at 5 a.m. I got out of bed, put on some clothes, put harnesses and leashes on two of our four dogs, and took them for a walk. Afterwards, I fed three of our four dogs, drank some coffee, and spent some time reading scripture, praying, and going over the details for morning worship. I ate a protein bar, drank another cup of coffee, showered, dressed, and was out the door (every other human and one dog in my house stays asleep during this process). I don’t listen to the radio in my car on the way to worship on Sunday mornings. I pray (with my eyes open) while I drive. Like I said, it is a routine.
Around 1:30 that afternoon I became aware of the mass shooting which took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This horrible tragedy consisted of a hate crime and an act of terrorism rolled up into one. I’m not sure what possesses a person to commit such atrocities. It’s simply beyond my comprehension. As I have reflected and prayed over this tragedy, the words of the prophet Isaiah continue to come to mind, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4, NIV). I, like you, desire a day when violence will come to an end. In the meantime, how do we live as people of peace?
Hours after the massacre in Orlando social media feeds were filled with arguments on the best way to achieve peace and prevent such violence. Some people argue that no private citizen should be allowed to own an assault rifle. Others state that if more people had been armed in the nightclub, the slaughter could have been stopped sooner. Most likely, those of you who read this will have differing views on how best to achieve peace and prevent such future tragedies. Yet, there are certain things we can do to live out the peace, which we desire.
Perhaps the simplest act of peace can be to refrain from utilizing social media to post hateful, belittling, and demeaning things. This is especially true during an election season when leaders and followers are poised to attack their political opponents. Written and verbal violence sets a horrible tone and seeks to lessen the sacred worth of the one being attacked. We don’t have to go very far back in history to see that when the sacred worth of individuals and groups of people is brought into question, violent atrocities are much more prone to take place. Physical, verbal, and written violence as a means of expressing anger and frustration does not represent the will of God.
I close with these words from the Apostle Paul, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:29-32, NIV).
Illustrating Christ’s peace to the world must be our daily routine.