My reflection after the November 13 attacks
Our team walked down Rue Voltaire, where terrorists massacred and injured many in their vicious public attacks; we stopped at various streets just to bless people with gospel songs and prayer. Seeing the flowers, the candles, the notes and photos of the slain brought back memories of what we experienced here in Paris back at the beginning of last year after the attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher Jewish grocery market near our branch office. Once again, the November attacks were not far away from us. Around the erected memorials where the attacks happened, people and media gathered. It was a somber and solemn place where few words were spoken.
Soon after the attacks, celebrities, politicians, people from all walks of life—even those who weren’t openly religious—expressed their desire to pray for Paris (#PrayForParis). But many committed to secularism wanted to keep God out of any comfort offered. Thanks but no thanks. They blamed religion and religious fanaticism for terrorism and attacks on liberty. For them true liberty excludes God.
The terrorists had cried out: “Allahu akbar!” (“God is the greatest!”), believing themselves to be His instruments in a holy war. Those committed to secularism and atheism see the terrorists as proof that God and religious expression should be separate from all aspects of public life (politics, schools, etc.). To them, it’s public and regular life that is holy and God has no place in it.
When choosing the songs we wanted to share and bless people with on the street, I felt almost as if the terrorists had “highjacked” the greatness of God. I thought to myself, “How will we point people to God’s greatness (His love, strength, care, saving power, healing) when the terrorists claimed to invoke His greatness before their massacre?”
Then I remembered what sets the gospel message apart: a distinct and unmatched perspective of God’s holiness and greatness. Through the gospel we realize that all of us have sinned and fall short of His standards and glory. Through the gospel, we discover God’s great love for us, and His saving power when He sent His Son, the Messiah Jesus, to die in our place. We see God’s greatness in Messiah’s resurrection and victory over death. When we receive His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation, God promises to give us new life and to be with us forever. He empowers us through His Spirit to produce “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (from Galatians 5:22-23). That makes God great in my book, and enables me to boldly share His true greatness with those struggling with pain, loss, and with sin.
That day we stood in our Jews for Jesus T-shirts and sang “Amazing Grace” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” (Listen to a bit of that music outreach here). Some stopped to listen and talk with us. Some accepted prayer. One woman, Laura, had never heard “Amazing Grace” in her life and, as she listened, the emotions that had built up in her flowed out in tears. We had an opportunity to share how Messiah had promised, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Please pray the Lord may use our efforts to minister to many here in Paris, to draw them to the One who can help and save. Thank you for praying for our staff, family, ministry and France during these difficult days.