Yesterday (Monday, April 23rd) was supposed to be yet another ‘rapture date’ set by prophecy pundits, and instead of a rapture we got another vehicular tragedy in Canada.
I planned to write about the missed rapture, but with this tragedy littering so many of my friends news feeds I thought it might be helpful to shift my focus.
What happened? A 25 year old man named Alek Minassian used a van as a weapon and drove into the crowded streets of Toronto, killing 10 and injuring 15 more. This morning he was charged with 10 counts of first degree murder.
There are several responses we can have as Christians trying to think through this. Some of us are asking why these sorts of things happen, some are crying out ‘maranatha’, others are saying their ‘thoughts and prayers are with the families’ while others are condemning ‘thoughts and prayers’ as amounting to nothing.
I think what is interesting about this attack is that, unlike a shooting, we aren’t automatically relegated to our political sides to shout at one another over the large chasm that divides. People aren’t clamouring to write ‘anti-van’ posts or ‘pro-van’ posts.
This attack reminds us that whether it’s a shooting in the US, a knife attack in the UK or a vehicular attack in Canada banning guns, knives or vehicles won’t solve the problem that is becoming more and more evident to the world: humans are the problem.
The wickedness in our hearts will compel us to weaponize anything within our grasp to hurt others, whether that be words, guns or transportation devices.
Jesus had to help his disciples and others around him process two similar tragedies in Luke 13:
“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
So there were two tragedies, one included Pilate putting Galileans to death when they were offering sacrifices and the other was a collapsed tower. One was an act of deliberate terror, the other would fall under what insurance companies call `an act of God`.
What is Jesus message? All those people who tragically died were sinners just like everyone talking about the people who tragically died were. They all need the same thing: repentance.
So we need not spend time reflecting on how this Alek fellow could be so cold-hearted and capable of such evil. We are all capable of that kind of evil. Jesus calls us on that in Matthew 5 when he says even though many (most) of us haven`t murdered, the anger we store up in our hearts is enough to condemn us of murderous intentions. We`ve all wished bad on another, if we were completely honest we`ve all thought of harming or wished harm on those we dislike or who have wronged us. Each and every one of us, whether there was a gun, knife or vehicle ready and waiting and no consequences awaited us would use these tools to take life.
There is only one hope for people like us: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith. a new heart and a new life.
So, what do we do in the wake of tragedy?
Repent, because the attacked was no worse a sinner than you.
Call those that we are responsible for (our family, congregation, small group, friends) to repent because the same applies to them.
Pray. Because prayer actually works. Pray that God`s gospel is shared by Christians close to the situation, to the families grieving, to the bystanders traumatized and even to the guilty attacker.
Share the gospel. Because the gospel is the only thing that can change a human heart.
We aren’t going to stop evil humans from killing people they hate by restricting guns, knives, vans or letter openers. We aren’t going to end these tragedies by voting in the Conservatives or Republicans. We aren’t going to defeat evil with the right legislation or perfect social media post.
We will end evil and death when the “knowledge of the glory of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
Every single person who receives new life in Christ is saved from their total depravity. Let`s turn the would-be terrorists into God-fearing Christians by sharing the gospel faithfully and putting our hope in Christ alone.