6 Ways to Love Your Neighbor in the Aftermath of the Shooting
It seems surreal that it was only a few days ago that a gunman opened fire in El Paso. On Monday I had to go back to the store. Next week our boys are going back to school. We are here for a reason as disciples of Jesus and one of our tasks is to love our neighbors well in a way that serves them and points them to Jesus. But how do we do that? Here are six ideas:
1. Love your neighbor by being with them
It can be tempting after something like this to pull back, to withdraw from people. But I believe loving your neighbor starts with being near your neighbor, being present with them. Walk over to your neighbor and check on them. Go to lunch with coworkers.
This week as I’ve gone out I’ve asked people a simple question, “Is your family okay this week?” and it has opened up good conversations. People have been blessed just that I took the time to ask that. As the weeks go on we can ask, “How are you doing after the shooting? Are you okay?”
2. Love your neighbor by mourning with them
Romans 12:15 calls us to “weep with those who weep.” Our city is still in mourning and will be for some time. As new information comes out, as we know better the people lost, we’ll continue to weep. And it is right that we weep with them. Scripture has a long legacy of biblical lament and we must make room for lament.
3. Love your neighbor by serving them sacrificially
When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 he helped us understand both who our neighbor is and how we are to love them. Our neighbor is anyone, even those very different from us. Our call to love them is to love sacrificially and generously, spending ourselves for their good. After all, this is the way that Jesus has loved us.
I’m so proud that in just our vocations our church is already at work in this. Yesterday one of our members (Neil) helped plan a vigil for the slain student in Horizon. Another member goes back to work at a school close to tragedy (Lenny at Burges). Other members who are first responders and in law enforcement have been and will walk through the aftermath of this. Other members who are mental health professionals will be counseling people. If your church intersects with this tragedy remember you’re not just going to work, you are loving your neighbor and laying your life down for them.
Let’s continue to love our neighbors sacrificially in the aftermath of all this. Donate blood. Give toward the victims’ families. Volunteer at a non-profit serving in response to this. Be on the lookout for the many small ways and large ways we can take time from our lives and love our community.
4. Love your neighbor by avoiding unnecessary fights and pursuing gracious advocacy
Romans 12:18 tells us that if it’s possible, so far as it depends on us, to live at peace with everyone. It can be so tempting at times like this to launch into a tirade that alienates and hurts our extended family or Facebook friends. While responses to this tragedy in terms of advocacy or activism or highlighting issues can be appropriate, let’s do those things in a way that still pursues peace.
Here’s the reality: After something like this we may find ourselves disagreeing about the causes of the attack, or what should be done in response to the attack. Scripture can provide helpful principles but we are often left wrestling with wisdom applications of Scripture rather than a specific clear specific Scriptural command. In light of that, let’s hold our opinions but hold them humble and peacefully. However, I also believe that Christians are called to love our neighbors through gracious advocacy of issues as well. It is not wrong to write a letter, to contact a legislator, to support a cause. But let our advocacy and activism be gracious and Christ-like.
5. Love your neighbor by turning away from fear and hatred
In the days since the attack I admit that I've wrestled with sinful anger against a variety of people or groups. I've battled fear, which often leads me down the path of sinful anger. But we can't live there. If we are to love our neighbors and honor God we must turn away from fear and hatred. Having been deeply sinned against through hatred we must not sin in return. Only when Christ is our refuge and strength can we turn from these things. We cannot turn and hate a particular skin color, or type of person, otherwise we are no better than the shooter. In Christ, we are offered a better way.
In Luke 6 Jesus calls us to something seemingly impossible. He calls us to love even our enemies. How can he call us to do this? Only because we were all once enemies of Jesus and yet Jesus has loved us. What he calls us to do is what he has done for us. And we can release our desire for vengeance only because the Lord himself will see that justice is done and no one will get away with anything (Romans 12:19). Our part, then, is to love.
6. Love your neighbor by pointing them to the refuge in Jesus
Our city needs a lot right now but more than anything our city needs Jesus. Our city needs a refuge that can’t be lost even by an active shooter. Our city needs a hope that will never be shaken even by hatred. Our city needs a peace that can’t be taken away even by terror.
Scripture calls us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope within us, and right now our city is asking for hope (1 Peter 3:15). We are called ambassadors of Christ, and at times like these, we point people to a better country (2 Cor 5:17-21). I do not think it’s an exaggeration to say that this could be one of the defining missional opportunities for our generation in El Paso. People are asking questions. People are open to talking about life and death and God. If we have found a hope and a refuge we can do no greater kindness to our city than to point people to that hope and refuge.
We love our city. We love Jesus. And we want our city to know the love of Jesus.