“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
—2 Corinthians 4:8-9
With our hearts heavy and weary from the news of yet another evil act of massive killing and injury this past week in Las Vegas, our prayers immediately reach out to those who grieve and those so closely touched by this senseless tragedy. There really are no words that can adequately address a horrific event of this magnitude.
Without resorting to theological clichés or trite platitudes, we still turn to our faith to help us as we struggle with our questions, confusion, anger and sadness. The Apostle Paul’s words about being afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, help to acknowledge the pain in human life and also affirm that God is still at work in spite of the evil.
We acknowledge that behind this tragedy, like so many others tragedies, are real human beings with names and stories and families and relationships. There are also hundreds of others for whom life will be forever marked and changed because of their connection to the tragedy, either directly or indirectly.
In times of evil tragedy, we are also brought back to our shared humanity through our baptism vows. We say at baptism that we renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world and repent of our sin. In other words, we acknowledge that there is wickedness, evil and sin in the world, but ‘renounce’ means we refuse to follow and that we will put our actions into rejecting evil. Another one of our baptismal vows is that we accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist the evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
May remembering our baptism lead us to take action and make changes in our own lives that will renounce the evil and call us and others to live by the fruit of the Spirit, which Scripture tells us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).