Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Paris Attacks and Praying Christians

This morning, we are still reeling from the news of the attacks last night in Paris, seven different incidents resulting in the deaths of over 120 people, most of whom were in a music hall attending a concert. The instantaneous coverage around the world make us all feel as if we are in the middle of the crisis, and thus the impact of the attacks was even higher for those aware of the news last night. 

Within hours, social media was abuzz with stories, comments, hashtags, and memes. Calls for prayer were intermixed with outcries of rage and revenge toward ISIS. As I scanned many of the responses, I was uncertain what to do. I was appalled, sad, angered at the evil evidenced, and bothered by some of the inane analysis that seemed to lack a category for such evil being perpetrated in the name of religion (other than Christianity, which many can easily demonize in other settings). We can pray for those injured and the families of those who were killed, and of course we must keep up a continued crying out for the Lord to come and bring his kingdom, but our normal responses to help aren''t really necessary. France doesn't need our food, our bandages, our military, or our medical teams. 

But France does need our prayers. The nation is one of the least evangelized in Europe, and while churches are being planted and revitalized, the knowledge of the gospel and the hope that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ is rare. The two mission efforts we have supported are far from Paris, even though the whole nation has undoubtedly been shaken by these events. Prayers should include our brothers and sisters in the Baptist Church of Caen, France (pastored by Jamel and Yvan, disciples of Dan Lacey), and the church planting team in Lyon, France that includes Jesse and Ashley Leightenheimer. Pray that they have great wisdom in speaking into the lives of many who may feel their world has been undone by this, not to mention those with family and friends affected. If you know other gospel workers and believers in France, this is a critical moment for them and they need your prayers.

Pray for gospel witnesses to be grace-filled and proactive wherever they are in the greater Paris area. We may not know them, but they are still family and they have a window of opportunity; and pray for any believers who have been hurt or suffered loss.

Finally, we need to pray for our enemies--in this case those people who identify with ISIS and its work, who are in desperate need of salvation. Make no mistake, I will pray for them, even as I pray for the success of those who would hunt them down and defeat them. They are dangerous and deadly and must be treated as such, but they are also sinners who are not beyond the reach of the grace of God. 

I don't hold out a lot of hope for our world, and for peace in the Middle East. Attacks like this will continue, and the Bible doesn't encourage us to think things will get better before Jesus returns. But Jesus will return, and that hope (along with the gospel that explains how to have hope in his return) is what keeps us looking forward and looking up, weeping with those who weep in these moments but undeterred in our commitment to see France and the rest of the world hear the message of Jesus.