“Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” (Ezekiel 9:4)
I read this verse as part of another pastor’s blog post. He was lamenting a local tragedy, one of many in our nation and world. Now we are all lamenting the tragedy in El Paso. Even when we are not directly affected by a tragedy, it can still hit home. There is plenty to lament. We are so interconnected via technology, that detestable things don’t have to be in our own city to touch us. We hear about events in other places, and we grieve over them, as well.
Lament is appropriate. But afterward, we tend to ask questions—hard questions. What’s the answer? What’s the solution? We know violence isn’t the answer. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Politics don’t seem to be much more than a limited part of the solution. If there was an easy political solution, wouldn’t it already have been implemented? No, we need something different. Something more.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but there are two things I feel strongly about. One is that people need Jesus. We need to follow Jesus. The more of us that live out more of his teachings, the better (and more peaceful and more just) our community, country, and planet is going to be. That’s why I’m committed to teaching the Bible. It reveals God’s love, through Jesus, to all of us. Second, we need relationships. God designed us for relationships. As we develop relationships with others, particularly people who aren’t just like us, we can more fully live out the “one another” teachings of Jesus. This combats racism, classism, and a host of other ills. Professor Anthony Bradley even more specifically talks about the importance of local relationships in his article from several years ago, written after a series of tragic events: https://world.wng.org/2016/07/lamenting_listening_praying_and_participating_our_way_to_change.
As we think these things through, let’s continue to lament and pray to the God who hears and cares. As we do, strive to follow Jesus and build relationships with other sojourners on this often difficult journey.