I just got done checking the news again. It’s been just less than a week after the horrible attacks in Paris. 132 persons died in coordinated attacks by terrorists. A manhunt is underway. The flags in our small community in Alaska are at half-mast in honor of victims. Many of my Facebook friends have turned their profile pics to the colors of the French flag in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in France. And the news has been all about this attack the response around the world.
Also, while it did not make the news, there were other terrorist bombings last week: two in Baghdad that killed at least 36 and a suicide attack in Beirut that killed 43. Perhaps these attacks didn’t make the news around here because it wasn’t those of European descent who were killed. Perhaps it’s because they are in parts of the world where violence happens so regularly it isn’t newsworthy to our Western eyes and ears and hearts. Regardless, there are other lives to mourn–lives as valuable as those lost in Paris.
Responses, of course, have been swift after the attacks on France. France bombed terrorist posts in Syria. Borders have been tightened to keep out refugees. And, in our country, many have called to keep our borders closed and we’ve debated our response in statehouses, in congress, and on our cable news. Some have said we should keep out Muslim refugees but Christians are OK.
Among my Christian and non-Christian friends we have talked about “the proper Christian response.” It’s a loaded term. Look at our storied history and see how Christians have responded to threats in the past. It’s definitely a mixed bag. So, I am in no way qualified to give you “the proper Christian response” to this latest attack and this latest humanitarian crisis of refugees. People much smarter than I, with much more “skin in the game” disagree. And, yet, I want to give you a sense of how I look at the issues and how I respond right now.
This is not THE Christian response. This is MY Christian respons
As I see it, there are many competing narratives if you’re paying attention. There are keywords that get tossed around in these narratives such as “national security,” “justice,” “freedom,” “social welfare,” “foreign aid,” and “economic interests.” And these (or others) can shape how you look at this world of ours and the issues of terrorism and a refugee crisis. And I understand that these narratives can change depending on where you stand or what group you belong to. Most political parties have a major narrative. Those running for office, in particular, have a narrative in trying to appeal to the voters. The terrorists themselves have their own narrative as they try to breed discontent among those of the Muslim faith.
But, Christians must have a different way of looking at the situations in our world. We have a different narrative.
Let me share with you a fancy, Greek-y word. It’s “HERMENEUTIC.” It means “a method of interpretation” and is often used to describe biblical study. It means, therefore, your way of interpreting the bible. However, we can move beyond the Bible and use it a word to describe how it is we interpret this world of ours. It’s the “lens” through which we look at the world…the “playing field and rulebook” we use to play.
And for Christians, our HERMENEUTIC is Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. We interpret the Bible through Jesus and Jesus is how we interpret our world. Jesus is the lens through which we look at the world and our issues. Jesus is our playing field and, when controversy arrises, Jesus is the “rulebook” we use to discern a way forward.
You may remember Charles Sheldon’s classic book, “In His Steps,” which posed the question “What Would Jesus Do?” — long before our bracelets and bumper stickers. And, with Jesus as our hermeneutic, we ask, “What WOULD Jesus do?…We ask what response looks most Jesus-y.
Or, you may think of Michael Spencer’s “Jesus-Shaped Spirituality” which is “knowing and following Jesus as the one who reveals both the Father and the shape of human experience.”
Or, in short, I think we need to look at Jesus, study his ways, and try to respond as he would…and then ask if our response “looked like Jesus.”
Are we going to get it exactly right? No. Does all of first century Israel translate to today’s world? No. But, we are called to look to this Jesus as we learn how to live and respond in this world of ours. And that goes for how we respond to the matters of terrorism, violence, peace, economic uncertainty, and refugees today.
Sitting in Seward, Alaska with no immediate family in the armed forces or in national politics and with no friends or family in Parish, or Beirut or Iraq, I recognize that I’m in a privileged position. The number of lives in “the balance” with my perspective is very small. Any “armchair quarterbacking” of world issues occurs at a seemingly safe distance. However, from my comfortable space I look to Jesus. I will remember that we have a God who came among the poor, became a refugee to Egypt after his birth, who welcomed the outcast, who turned the other cheek, who mourned the loss of life, who told us to welcome folks, and feed them and clothe them, and offered his life as a ransom for all. And it is only through this person, Jesus, that I can interpret this world of ours.
Does this spell out exactly how I should respond? No. And we are going to have vast differences of opinion. That’s clear. But while some may respond out of fear or out of economic concerns or matters of the “nation-state” (all of which are bound to shape our response as well) we Christians respond out of our understanding of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came to this world and offered himself as a sacrifice and in whose name we have eternal life.