By Karl Vaters
[Editor’s Note: This article was originally published following the Orlando tragedy, but its message rings remarkably true for every act of evil we encounter and in the COVID-19 season.]
In trying to make sense of events like this, we’re all capable of saying something stupid.
Christians are no exception to this. Sometimes we say dumb things. Things that hurt when we’re trying to help.
In this, and other past events (sadly, there are just so many of them) I’ve noticed five dumb things Christians tend to say.
1. “This is an opportunity for the church…”
Evil acts are not opportunities. They’re just evil.
Can God redeem them? Of course. That’s the central principle of the gospel—how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus overcame evil with good.
But when we use words like ‘opportunity’ we sound—well—opportunistic.
This is not the time to look for an angle. It’s time for prayer, grief, compassion and love without agenda.
Of course, it’s always time for that. But now more than ever.
2. “This is God’s wrath for…”
We live in a sinful, broken world. We’re the ones who broke it. And we break it a little more every day.
Evil acts, like the terrorism of last weekend, are prime evidence of that brokenness and of our inherent sinfulness. The sinfulness we all share.
No matter why the terrorist targeted that club, one thing is clear: He wasn’t sent by God.
If you think he was, then you have to be in favor of what happened. No believer in the Prince of Peace can do that.
3. “Did you hear…?”
Rumors are coming.
And conspiracy theories.
They always do, following incidents like this.
Followers of Jesus must always speak with grace and truth. Not innuendo and rumor.
Resist the urge to pass along any news that hasn’t been proven by reliable sources. There’s enough misinformation out there without Christians starting or sharing untruths.
4. “I don’t agree with their lifestyle (or politics, or religion, or…), but…”
When people are in pain, why even mention our differences?
I don’t care what side of the moral, religious, political, ethnic or sexual fence you’re on right now. Even if you’re not on my side.
In the face of massive loss due to horrifying evil, we need to concentrate on our common humanity.
5. “Everything happens for a reason”
No. It just doesn’t.
Evil has no reason. It is anti-reason. And anti-love.
And don’t spout any nonsense about evil balancing out the good. Evil balances nothing. It keeps everything off balance.
That’s why God hates it.
“Everything happens for a reason” is more pagan than Christian. It’s more about Karma than Christ.
Evil is not supposed to happen. It does. Obviously. But it shouldn’t.
In order to make sense of things, we’re tempted to offer easy answers. But when people are in pain, we need to resist the urge. Uncomfortable silence is better than false platitudes.
“I don’t know why this happened, but I’m crying with you” is a far better answer to someone who has lost a loved one than hackneyed tripe like “God must have wanted another angel.”
If you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything at all.
What to Do Instead of Talking
The biblical response to those in pain is simple, but profound.
Cry with those who cry.
So, to the families, friends and loved ones of those affected by this unspeakable evil…
There is no way for us to know what you’re going through. So we won’t pretend we do.
But we are crying with you.
**This post originally appeared on Christianity Today.
See more from Karl Vaters on his blog.