“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Phil. 2:1).
There is no better time to embrace Paul’s words than in the aftermath of national devastation. When shock and disbelief yield to raw emotion, it is natural for anger, fear and vengeance to step front and center to demand attention. And they will. As we discover our own connections to victims of this tragedy, our pain will burrow deeply into the crevices created by the impact of Tuesday’s events. As stories emerge from the wreckage of the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and photographs and video footage imprint themselves into our vulnerable psyches, the desire for justice will burn deeper and deeper within our individual and collective souls.
The temptation will be to assuage our outrage and mitigate our grief with the time honored response of an eye for an eye. We claim that it is human nature to seek vengeance, and it is, but it is also human nature to feel compassion. At a time when our faith has been rocked on its foundation, the encouragement of Christ is what steadies us and keeps us centered. When anger flares it is the love of Christ that transcends the desire to act or speak impulsively. When fear rises from the core of our being it is participation in the spirit that transforms our disabilities into bold actions for good.
To be in Christ is to seek his mind and reflect his love. In the coming days and weeks we have the opportunity to make choices that will demonstrate whether or not we have sought to be in full accord with our savior, and to share in the depth of his love. How we respond to that opportunity will be the measure of our faith. Daily we will be tested, and daily we must pray for the wisdom and courage to follow the example of Christ. It will not be easy, but living in the shadow of the cross has never been easy.
When my community of faith gathered Tuesday night for prayer and worship, the following verse of one of the hymns we sang spoke to our heartache. It reminds us succinctly that we are made in the image of God, and that the single most important aspect of our creation is that we share in his love:
God is love, and love enfolds us, all the world in one embrace:
with unfailing grasp God holds us, every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod,
then we find that self-same aching deep within the heart of God.
As we live within the heart of God we serve those whom we have lost. For the sake of their memory and the glory of God, we honor them best when we act in love.