Pray for Vegas
This phrase has been interesting to me in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival here in Las Vegas. The festival was right off the strip, and the shooter was perched on the 32nd floor of a large, popular hotel. This, largest mass shooting in the history of our country, has rocked the Las Vegas community while simultaneously bringing it together in love and support.
When something like this happens in Las Vegas it happens to the world. Out of the 22,000 people in attendance, this country concert was a national, if not international, event. The devastation is felt everywhere. Lives from all over were lost, or changed forever.
Many of my friends locally seem to be taking offense to the phrase, “Pray for Vegas.” Responses have ranged from crossing out “pray” and adding “act” to hashtags that “thoughts and prayers don’t stop gun violence.”
This posture towards prayer is in line with the current statistics and trends in America regarding religion and church. People are walking away from organized or formal religion and simply not affiliating with anything related to it. That includes prayer. People aren’t seeing the prayers of believers as enough or even necessary.
A Complete Response to Tragedy
While my first reaction was to pray, it was not my only reaction or response. Nor should this be the response of anyone who follows Jesus. There’s a more complete reaction to tragedy, and that’s what I want to address here.
First, Jesus spent time (agonizing hours and even days) in prayer, but he spent as much time and energy (if not more) on actionable, necessary life-change through love. He walked with people in their hurt. Jesus viewed love as a verb, not a noun. The story of the Good Samaritan shows us Jesus’ passion for life-altering mercy, and front-line action in the wake of tragedy and injustice. While prayer is central to faith in Jesus, it is nothing without love in action…
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
Second, the brother of Jesus clearly lays out the argument that many people have against people who say they follow Jesus but seem to have empty words.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”
I believe this is the same question people have in today’s world, “what good are your words without action?” Only, this question isn’t coming from those who follow Jesus. It’s directed at them from those who claim no faith. Most people in America understand enough about Jesus to be able to identify when those who follow him aren’t getting it right.
Lastly, I believe the complete response of every community of faith should be HOPE! The church of Jesus carries with it a message of hope for the world. A better existence. A better way. Light in darkness. Healing in pain. Life in death. Acceptance in rejection. Love in the middle of hate. We carry the message of Jesus, and it’s a message more than words.
So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.
Faith, hope, and love should drive the “christian” world to meaningful action in the face of tragedy. Our response should be that of Jesus; humble, sacrificial love for the broken, mourning, suffering neighbor in need of mercy.
As I wrap this up I want to share a few more thoughts for those who are hurting, confused, and angry in the aftermath of this tragedy.
- You’re not alone. Don’t isolate. Connect with people. Share your thoughts and emotions. Find community.
- Seeking rationality amid irrational actions may seem frustrating and futile. Suffering tends to be a transrational teacher, so learn what you can and keep moving.
- Try to avoid arguments. Make a difference in the way you feel is best; practical help, calling/writing government leaders, organizing community functions, time with family, etc. Arguing agendas only distracts from love. Do you and love others.
- Our world is broken. Hate exists. Resist. Actively assess your own hate and work to correct it. Then reach out and help those around you get there too.
Do you have a story to share about the tragedy? Do you have questions? Post in the comments below and join the discussion!