War, government shut-downs, school shootings, natural disasters…. the list goes on and on. Each morning our newsfeeds are filled with overwhelming news of trauma, heartbreak, and crisis. Some of respond by aggressively expressing our feelings on social media, while others of us withdraw into sad exhaustion. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle of these extremes.
When a local, national, or international incident hits, we have a normal (and I believe a God-designed) desire to do something. What can we do when every situation is so different? Here are six responses that have helped me (and so many others I know) respond when the any news of crisis hits…
Our first response is a direct command from Scripture: “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). This command is non-discriminatory. We don’t need to and shouldn’t decide who to weep with, for, or whether their cause is worthy of our heartbreak. Our first step is to join in our collective humanity to express the pain of the world not being as it should be. When Jesus approached the grieving family of his deceased friend Lazarus, he wept. Even though he knew full well that he would perform a miracle and reverse the pain they’d experienced, his first step was to grieve with them.
Our next response is to seek God. But the seeking of God is not for answers. Like Jesus instructed in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), it begins with an affirmation of who God is God‘s goodness, holiness, and our desire for God‘s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. At this point, we have to be careful not to come to conclusions about what we believe God’s should be. Instead, we should pray for forgiveness for our sins, forgiveness enemies, and confess our limited worldview. This sets us up with the right posture to move to the next step.
Next, we can look for more information. This means going to trusted sources (Proverbs 11:14). It also requires us to not settle for easy answers. As followers of Jesus, we believe in good and evil, but our reading the Bible has taught us that there is more nuance than we first realize. This is when our response begins to slow down and to our “seeking work.” We pay attention to what is being said, and what is not being said. We also recognize that every view is biased, including our own. The culture wants us to take a side, get a reaction, go for a quick fix, and then move on to a different story. As followers of Jesus, we don’t have that luxury.
Next, we listen, and this is probably the hardest response. It requires holding our urge to make quick and often angry judgments (James 1:19-20). It means having conversations with people who see things differently than we do, even intentional looking for them. We must go beyond reading/listening to one-sided news and intersect with other human beings that represent views different than our own. In the New Testament, it was Jesus who often offered a different perspective on the world than his listeners expected. He still does this today.
Discernment is about seeing a situation as God sees it. This is no easy task because despite how spiritual or biblically knowledgeable we are, God’s view is often different than ours (Isaiah 55:8). A good starting point in this step is to remember that the Christian’s ultimate allegiance is to Jesus – not a country, political party, tradition, or personal preference.. We also believe that power corrupts and that Jesus often identifies with “the least and most vulnerable” among us, which means we are cautious about siding with the loudest voices. In fact, followers of Jesus often choose a “third way” over taking a side.
Our call is to do good, especially to fellow believers where they are and whoever they be (Galatians 6:20). Sometimes this action is immediate. We try to stop violence, protect victims, cry out for peace, and are careful with our anger (which we are taught does not usually accomplish God’s plans). As followers of Jesus, we also see “enemies” as people to be loved. We know we live in a fallen world of imperfect human beings, so even accept human error and sin and a primary cause in the crises we see. We are also generous, looking look for the best ways to help all those who suffering. And we were also nonjudgmental of people who decide others ways to act.
We live in a culture of immediacy. People expect quick responses and reactions to events happening in our world, but I’ve learned that sometime the stories change after hours or days, which make my reactions misguided and in need or correction.
We are called to not conform to this world (Romans 12:1). We don’t have to stay silent. We can lets our first responses be expressions of grief and general prayers for all involved. Over time, the Holy Spirit will direct us renew through increased information and wise conversations.
I believe this kind of timed and thoughtful response to news leads us to what the New Testament teaches us is best for us and others… “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23)