When a tragedy like Wednesday evening’s church shooting happens, there are always two types of first responders. One group of first responders is made up of law enforcement and medical personnel who quickly arrive on the scene, usually at great risk, to do the job that few of us want. We need these first responders. Many times, after all of the dust has settled down, their stories are the ones that provide us with hope and inspiration.
There is another group of first responders and they provide us with something quite different. These first responders don’t usually show up at the scene. In fact, they rarely know anyone involved or any of the details of the situation. But still they respond.
They respond by using the tragedy as a trampoline of sorts to catapult their particular agenda into the spotlight. These are the types of first responders that we don’t need, especially from within the body of Christ.
Thursday morning I made the mistake of listening to people on the radio talk about the South Carolina church shooting. After a grand total of ten minutes, I heard the radio host say that the cops should look into a bomb threat that had been reported at a hotel near the church, “because that’s how it always happens in the movies,” and how the suspect’s haircut meant that he was likely a person of influence who was being protected by powerful people.
First responders at the scene with badges and medical bags are brave.
First responders on their keyboards and microphones are usually foolish.
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Proverbs 17:27-28 (ESV)
I, like many people, am a fan of guns. But this tragedy isn’t our opportunity to go on social media and annoy everyone with posts about how this never would have happened if more people shared our passion for firearms.
Nor is this the opportunity to ramble on and on about tougher gun laws.
What we need is a third group of first responders. These first responders aren’t equipped with special training and may never be considered heroic but they are just as important as the men and women in uniform. And these first responders are devoted to something much more important than getting their opinions out to the public.
These first responders, before they do anything else, pray. They pray for justice. They pray for peace. They pray for the hurting.
And they cry with the hurting.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Romans 12:15-16 (ESV)
They do this because they don’t see what happened in South Carolina as a political event or an opportunity for social analysis. They see it for what it is. Evil. And as a result of this particular evil, nine people lost their lives.
Not nine Democrats or Republicans.
Not nine blacks.
Not nine church folks.
Nine people created in the image of God.
Look, we all have opinions and our own ideas for solutions when tragedies like this happen. That’s good. But at least for a few days we should keep them to ourselves. Or maybe we could just share them with friends over a meal.
The people impacted by this tragedy do not first need our opinions, theories or even our passions.
They need our prayers.
And our tears.