Responding to Paris Attacks by Being the Church

Dear Church Family,

Jesus lived in a world where there were terrorists, fundamentalist extremists and violent revolutionaries. The politics of hate were pursued with religious fervor. Jesus felt the same emotions that we are experiencing in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris. His teachings and his life model were offered as a way to live in just such a world as we face today.

The church exists to help us follow Christ’s way in all dimensions of our daily lives, from the personal to the political, from private mundane pleasures and stresses to public moments of extreme joy or grief.

So in this time, the best thing that we can do is to be the church.

Being the church means, “Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey,
you are welcome here.” We do not have to be eternally cheerful Christians. Jesus wept. Jesus got angry. The church needs to be a place where we can come with all of our emotions, whatever our condition, and know that just as God loves and accepts us as we are, and wants to help us find healing and transformation, so does our church.

Being the church means most of all being a place of unconditional, Christ-like love. Acts of terrorism threaten our ability to be unconditionally loving. Our grief, anger and fear naturally give rise to self-protection, closing our hearts as well as our borders. Christ taught us that we can overcome our instinctive fight or flight response. He showed us the way to keep loving no matter what happens in life.

The only way we as Christians can be defeated by terrorism is if we stop loving. So whatever else you do, please be especially loving toward one another now as a way of breaking the cycle of violence and hatred that terrorism fuels. Please fill this congregation with positivity and light—the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness can never overcome.

Being the church means extending beyond our walls the same unconditional love and generous-hearted support we offer to one another. Jesus told us it would not be easy. He said we had to take up our cross and follow him. The cross we need to bear is whatever loving service we can contribute to the cause of creating the realm of God’s mercy, justice and peace on earth. To take up our cross is to be a voice for love and to do acts of love even as others act in unloving ways around us.

Jesus taught us that the key to the realm of God on earth is a love that refuses to stay within the borders that others try to impose on it. Our Board of Mission and Social Action already was making plans to support Muslim refugees in this country, and to foster greater understanding between Muslims and Christians. The Paris attacks make this all the more important.

Being the church means taking a stand for love within our congregation, within our community and within the world, even while we openly acknowledge our grief, rage or fear. I hope you will find our church that kind of place in the weeks ahead. I hope you will help make it that kind of place.

We are not powerless. We have the greatest power of the universe available to us when we are being the church. Let us go forward in that faith.

Hope, peace, joy and love!