I am a pastor in Dayton, Ohio.
This week, our community is dealing with the brokenness of our world. Every Friday I send an email out to our church. Below is what I wrote in response to the week’s events.
This is a re-run. Other than a few edits, the first half of this email is identical to one I sent you several years ago after the Las Vegas shooting. I’ve updated it and added some extra thoughts at the end.
Sunday morning, we woke up to the terrible news that a man had chosen to destroy the lives of hundreds of people and families in our city. In times like these, it is difficult to know what to say. We have questions about why God would allow this and why these people’s lives were ended without any apparent reason.
As I pondered these questions and this tragedy, I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 13. Pontius Pilate, the cruel Roman leader, had ordered the deaths of many Jewish people. Their executions were carried out by Roman soldiers in the temple while they were offering sacrifices. This horrific act seemed senseless and horrific. For the Jews, it raised several of the same questions we are asking about Las Vegas.
In Luke 13, Jesus was asked about these events and in his response, he also referenced a tower that had fallen and killed 18 people. Here are Jesus’ words:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Consider the important points behind what Jesus is saying:
- These people didn’t die because of their sin. Sometimes, in a fallen world, bad things happen.
- Let this be a reminder to you that death comes for all of us, often unexpectedly.
- Are you ready to die?
As we grieve for this great loss of lives and as we seek ways to reach out to those who are hurting, let us also take time to reflect on our own lives. Are we ready to meet our maker? How well have we invested the time and resources He has given us? What will I do today that will matter in eternity?
Also, let’s not forget, that in the midst of this pain and suffering we have great hope. We can still live with joy because we know that this present evil is only for a short time compared to the eternal inheritance our Father has prepared for us. We can be grateful to Him, we can have hope in the future and we can pour love and joy into the lives of those around us.
Undoubtedly, over the coming days, you will be drawn into conversations about this tragedy. During these times, remember the words of James:
James 1:19-20 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
Conversations are good and they can be helpful, but perhaps they would be more healthy and more productive if they happened after we’ve processed the grief and sorrow and after we’ve had a chance to better understand what actually happened.
Consider these principles as guardrails for your conversations. These thoughts are all taken from Proverb 16:24 which says, “Kind words are like honey — sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
- Pause before you speak to be certain you are using the right words at the right time with the right tone.
- The right words are always true.
- Don’t bend, twist, or ignore the truth for convenience or to win an argument.
- False words may provide temporarily feel good but they have no long-term benefit.
- Some words are true but are not appropriate for every situation.
- The truth and power of your words can be lost if your tone isn’t helpful.
- Every word you speak carries incredible potential.
- Your words can be weapons of mass destruction.
- Your words can be tools of monumental construction.
- Kind words can encourage those who are unsure of their own ability.
- Attractive words can empower those who are under-performing.
- Pleasant words can heal wounds from the past.
- Angry and destructive words are withdrawals which bankrupt relationships.
- Corrective words can be attractive if they are the right words at the right time with the right tone.
- Use your words to encourage those around you and you’ll find yourself being more encouraged than anyone.
Have a great weekend! I’ll see you on Sunday.