NORMAN — Dark plumes of smoke rose from the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, this week. The world watched in horror as at least 16 terrorists stormed the mall, taking and killing numerous hostages as they battled Kenyan soldiers.
Earlier this month, 12 were killed at the Washington Navy Yard before the shooter was killed by police. In April, three were killed and 264 were injured as two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
And we all remember the unspeakably horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting just 10 months ago that left 26 children and staff dead before the gunman took his own life.
After last week’s shooting in Washington, one commentator was resigned to the “fact” that these killings are just part of life in our world today. I cringed.
The Columbine High School shootings in 1999 seem to have marked some kind of beginning point. Maybe it was the Murrah bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995 that was the watershed moment. Or, maybe it was when Cain killed Abel.
It just seems that these types of events are more and more commonplace. What are we to do?
Jesus came announcing a new kingdom. It is a kingdom marked by love, peace and compassion for others. It is a kingdom of righteousness amidst forgiveness and grace. This new kingdom stands in contrast to those kingdoms where all mixtures of good and evil battle for power and control.
Our dilemma is that this new kingdom will not be fully realized until the future. So, how shall we live in the between times? How shall we live in a world where evil and violence often win the day and create all kinds of death, woundedness and chaos?
The beatitudes in Matthew 5 speak to living in the between times. They speak of comfort for those who mourn, mercy for those who offer mercy, satisfaction for those who pursue righteousness.
These killings are cause for mourning. But in our mourning, let us find comfort from God and acknowledge that this comfort is a taste of the new kingdom.
Jesus also speaks of peacemaking as a work of the new kingdom. Our earthly kingdoms know about peacekeeping but struggle with peacemaking. And while there is a need for the peacekeeper’s “sword” in the between times, it must be used justly and only as a temporary measure to stop the chaos and/or killing until peacemaking happens.
The prophet Isaiah describes the peacemaking process as “turning swords into ploughshares.” Whenever possible, let’s choose the ploughshare over the sword. In the midst of the killings, let us commit to making peace.
Let us choose a healing path of grace and forgiveness over violence and revenge. Let us appropriately and purposefully look for opportunities to “turn the other cheek” and “walk the extra mile” to promote and broker peace.
We live in the between times when thieves come to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus promises life to those who follow Him. Let us celebrate when his kingdom breaks forth in the midst of the chaos and we experience love, hope and peace.
Jesus prayed for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Let us pray that His kingdom come soon. But in the meantime, let us find comfort, offer mercy, pursue justice and make peace.