From 9/11 to Orlando to hate crimes surrounding the election, the presence of evil in our world is inevitable but as Christians, how do we offer comfort? Sometimes it’s what NOT to say.
By Karl Vaters
[Editor’s Note: This article was originally published following the Orlando tragedy, but its message rings remarkably true for every act of evil we encounter.]
In trying to make sense of events like this, were all capable of saying something stupid.
Christians are no exception to this. Sometimes we say dumb things. Things that hurt when were trying to help.
In this, and other past events (sadly, there are just so many of them) Ive noticed five dumb things Christians tend to say.
1. This is an opportunity for the church
Evil acts are not opportunities. Theyre just evil.
Can God redeem them? Of course. Thats the central principle of the gospelhow the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus overcame evil with good.
But when we use words like opportunity we soundwellopportunistic.
This is not the time to look for an angle. Its time for prayer, grief, compassion and love without agenda.
Of course, its always time for that. But now more than ever.
2. This is Gods wrath for
We live in a sinful, broken world. Were the ones who broke it. And we break it a little more every day.
Evil acts, like the terrorism of last weekend, are prime evidence of that brokenness and of our inherent sinfulness. The sinfulness we all share.
No matter why the terrorist targeted that club, one thing is clear: He wasnt sent by God.
If you think he was, then you have to be in favor of what happened. No believer in the Prince of Peace can do that.
3. Did you hear?
Rumors are coming.
And conspiracy theories.
They always do, following incidents like this.
Followers of Jesus must always speak with grace and truth. Not innuendo and rumor.
Resist the urge to pass along any news that hasnt been proven by reliable sources. Theres enough misinformation out there without Christians starting or sharing untruths.
4. I dont agree with their lifestyle (or politics, or religion, or), but
When people are in pain, why even mention our differences?
I dont care what side of the moral, religious, political, ethnic or sexual fence youre on right now. Even if youre not on my side.
In the face of massive loss due to horrifying evil, we need to concentrate on our common humanity.
5. Everything happens for a reason
No. It just doesnt.
Evil has no reason. It is anti-reason. And anti-love.
And dont spout any nonsense about evil balancing out the good. Evil balances nothing. It keeps everything off balance.
Thats why God hates it.
Everything happens for a reason is more pagan than Christian. Its more about Karma than Christ.
Evil is not supposed to happen. It does. Obviously. But it shouldnt.
In order to make sense of things, were tempted to offer easy answers. But when people are in pain, we need to resist the urge. Uncomfortable silence is better than false platitudes.
I dont know why this happened, but Im crying with you is a far better answer to someone who has lost a loved one than hackneyed tripe like God must have wanted another angel.
If you dont know what to say, dont say anything at all.
What to Do Instead of Talking
The biblical response to those in pain is simple, but profound.
Cry with those who cry.
So, to the families, friends and loved ones of those affected by this unspeakable evil…
There is no way for us to know what youre going through. So we wont pretend we do.
But we are crying with you.
**This post originally appeared on Christianity Today.
See more from Karl Vaters on his blog.