1 John 4:7ff
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
16bGod is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19We love because he first loved us. 20Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
The attack on the Muslim family in London, ON is too much for me. And I am not even Muslim. I cannot imagine what would go through my head if I were Muslim. But imagining that may be a good idea because that kind of imagination leads to empathy.
I read up a little on the young man who committed this heinous crime, the little there is known and we don’t know how much of what is written is true and how much of it is speculation.
One thing that is floating around is that the perpetrator is a Christian. The media reported that a friend was to have said, “He’s Christian and has a great relationship with God … He was always pretty calm towards other people.”1
It is possible that people who commit atrocities identify as Christian. After all, much of Nazi Germany would have said they were Christian. And that is a terrifying thought. The shooter who killed nine participants of a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015 reportedly was on the membership roll of a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
But let me dwell on the statement that the white terrorist in London, On “is a Christian and has a great relationship with God.” One might ask what god, for anyone who has a close relationship with God cannot hate, for God is light and in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), and those who follow Jesus seek to love their enemies by which I do not mean to suggest that that innocent family was an enemy to anyone.
And yet reading about “a great relationship with God” makes me wonder.
What does “a great relationship with God” look like? Is it purely individualistic? Is it simply inviting Jesus into your heart? Is that all?
Or does a relationship with God make you part of the community we call the church where we learn to love those who are different from us, where we are accountable to one another, and seek to serve as Jesus served?
The truth is that one can fantasize about God being in agreement with all kinds of things we may want or like, or believe, but it is in community that we are corrected, that we learn that God is love and that whoever does not love does not know God. (1 John 4:7)
It seems that being a Christian is more than having “a great relationship with God.”
It also involves having meaningful relationships with others. Loving God and neighbour belong together.
I have known many people in the congregations I have served who augmented their Sunday worship with TV Evangelists during the week. I suppose people may have found it comforting but being a follower of Jesus isn’t just about finding comfort.
But it’s not just fundamentalist preachers on TV who may ruin your faith, there are many other things some of them are part of the political landscape, if it weren’t so we never would have had residential schools. Church only makes up for an hour or two per week. What do we do with the rest of our time, and how do the things we occupy ourselves with shape the direction of our lives in regards to who we are and what we do?
I do not have an answer as to why the young man in London, ON committed this heinous crime. But I do see it as an important reminder for us to not only go to church when we will be able to do that again, but to be the church, to be intentional about living our Christian convictions, and to remember that being a Christian, being a follower of Jesus is counter-cultural.
In a world that functions according to merit and power, we must be a people of grace, generosity, and service because that is how God is.