The recent terror attacks in Manchester and London and terrible fire in Grenfell tower have visibly shaken us as a country and they have highlighted what a broken and painful world we live in.
How do we as Christians respond? What does the Christian message have to say? Firstly as Christians we need to remember that God is not a God who is aloof to the world. God is present with us and shares our pain. When we suffer, he suffers with us – as it says in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me”.
Secondly we need to remember that as Christians as need not live in fear. The point of terrorism, particularly the indiscriminate attacks on vulnerable children and adults in Manchester Arena and London Bridge, are designed to strike fear into the heart of normal people going about their everyday life.
Interestingly the most common command in the bible is ‘do not fear’ or ‘do not be afraid.’ One example is our recent Sunday gospel reading:
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:26-31).
While in worldly terms we have a lot we could be afraid of, Jesus teaches us to not fear those who might cause us bodily harm. If he were speaking today, Jesus might say, “do not be afraid of terrorists, of those who seek to harm and hurt us through violence”. Rather he tells us to get our priorities right when it comes to what we should really fear: God is the one who has the power to destroy both body and soul and therefore he is the one to whom we should truly fear.
However fear of God is not the same kind of fear that a terrorist would have you feel. It is the humble, reverent and appropriate response to the God who is ultimately sovereign in the world and mighty in power.
The bible tells us that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 1:7). Wise living is about recognising who God is and trusting in his mighty power. This mighty power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and the same power that will eventually destroy all of God’s enemies including death itself. Wise living means living confidently in this knowledge and in the knowledge that we precious in God’s sight and that he loves us.