From the Archbishop

Bombs can never destroy Christ's love for us

TMA

By Archbishop Philip Freier

April 7 2016Easter 2016 was bookended by the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Lahore, the second apparently targeted at Christian families enjoying the Easter festivities.

Psalm 55 gives a perspective on how our human response to such events can be framed in God’s wisdom and purposes. Verses 4 and 5 read, ‘My heart is in anguish within me, the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.’

We can be thankful to God that we have the empathy and ordinary decency to react immediately to such events with a depth of personal response. This response may range from outrage to sorrow and fear. I expect that we are all touched within ourselves by fear, this is natural as we extrapolate from what we have seen to our own circumstances and context. Our response is one of flight and the attempt to find a place of safety where such events can’t reach us. We hope for anything to disrupt the direction of violence that seems to be gathering around us: ‘Confuse, O Lord, confound their speech; for I see violence and strife in the city’ (verse 9).

Whether it is in grainy security footage after such terrorist events or in the profiles of suicide bombers and terrorists released after such atrocities I have been amazed how often beforehand they seemed to be people who just blended in to the society in which they lived. ‘It is not my enemies who taunt me – I could bear that… But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend with whom I kept pleasant company’ (verses 12, 13).

Undoubtedly we feel betrayed by anyone who turns their efforts to destruction rather than building up the common good. We need to know, however, that the offence of such acts of terror is not just measured in this world but is the subject of God’s judgement.

The psalmist is confident of this and the theological realities of God’s judgement and salvation apply as we look at who are in fact the damned in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. The psalmist models the response we need make, in prayer to God: ‘I will call upon God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he will hear my voice’ (verse 17). Even in the worst of times when we are most distressed the reliability of God’s love calls us to prayer and confidence in God.

The psalmist draws this reflection to a close with a very powerful assertion: ‘Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved’ (verse 22). That is to say that our salvation and God’s personal love for us in Christ cannot be broken no matter what others do. Our mortal lives may be seized from us but our eternal standing in the love of God is secure. Our deepest response to both external events and our hearts’ fears are summed up in the closing verse of the psalm: ‘I will trust in you.’ Keep this as your prayer to the Father who has revealed the depth of his love for us in the Son.

Read more from Dr Philip Freier, Anglican Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Melbourne, at http://www.anglicanprimate.com.au/