“For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.”
Dear Members and Friends,
The killing of an innocent Muslim family, out for an evening walk last Sunday, came as a shock to many of us. After we got over the initial shock, our feelings changed to anger, sadness, frustration, as well as many others. We are used to seeing these evil events happen in other places around the world, but not in Canada.
In soundbites from politicians and others, we frequently hear the positive attributes of Canada and Canadian culture. However, Canada and its people are not immune to the negative isms and phobias that we usually hear about in other places around the world. We must always remain mindful that we are just as sinful as others who are in other parts of the world. We also must not try to rank or compare ourselves with other countries or places around the world. There are not different degrees of sinfulness. Sin is the turning away from God and God’s loving purpose for the world and focusing on our own desires. We turn because we trust ourselves more than we trust God.
Martin Luther attributed sinful and evil acts as the work of the devil. The above quote from Luther captures his understanding of how the devil works. The devil looks for our weak spots and fills us with doubt. We have the biblical story of the devil tempting Jesus. You will recall from that story that the devil approaches Jesus when he is feeling weak. The devil kept coming at Jesus with temptation after temptation. Each temptation was grounded in a misinterpretation of what was written in scripture. Jesus did not give in to the temptations because Jesus was God and therefore knew what was true and right. We are not God, so it is easier for the devil to make inroads into our thoughts and lives, especially in those places where we feel safe.
When we were baptized and/or confirmed, we renounced the devil and all his empty promises. The renouncement did not banish the devil from our lives. The devil would become a forever enemy that we would need to fight against. God has given us the tools we need – prayer, worship, and the word. It is also not a battle that we fight on our own, God is with us.
The perpetrator of last Sunday’s horrific act has been identified as a Christian. You and I know, as Christians, these kinds of actions are not inline with Christian thought or theology. We need to act, by telling and showing true Christian love of neighbour. The actions of one individual, with mental health issues, is not representative of Christianity.
Those of us who are white, need to first acknowledge that the colour of our skin gives us privileges that others do not have. Our faith tradition, Christianity, also affords us privileges. I know that we do not intentionally accept the privileges that we have, they are given to us without our asking – we might not even recognize that we have them until we encounter others who do not have them.
We need to speak out against all forms of racism and support those who have a different faith from our own. We need to hold our elected leaders accountable so that they enact laws and policies to level the playing field. Change can only happen when we diligently and consistently do this. We need to have the courage to speak up and speak out against divisive behaviour, such as racism and religious hatred.
As the news of this tragic event begins to fade from the news cycle, we must not forget about the victims and their family. Let us lift up in prayer those who have died this past week - Salman, Madiha, Yumna, and Talat. We also pray for the physical healing that Fayez needs now and for the lifelong emotional healing and support that he will need.
Although the laws of our country will decide what punishment is right, just, and necessary, it is our Christian duty to pray for Nathaniel. We pray that God replace the hate in his heart with peace and understanding and the knowledge that God loves him as he does all of creation. We pray for guidance for Nathaniel’s doctors and therapists so that he may receive the help that he needs and come to a place of healing.
Lastly, we need to pray for our governments and be in communication with our elected leaders. We pray that God guide their work in addressing systemic racism and religious animosity in this country, whether it be through new laws or other efforts. We need to share with them our views and thoughts on how to dismantle systemic racism and religious hatred.
Peace in Christ,