4 Biblical Ways to Respond to Mass Shootings and Other Tragedies
By: Dr. Dillon Burroughs | © 2019
Recent mass shootings have led to a wide range of responses and emotions. Politicians debate gun laws, while victims grieve and Americans continue to fear for their safety. How would God have us respond to such tragedies?
Though the Bible does not provide an exact solution to answer the modern complexities of gun violence, it does offer at least four principles we can apply to such acts today. A close look will help us better live out our faith and positively influence the lives of others.
1. Mourn with Those Who Mourn
Romans 12:15 teaches us to “mourn with those who mourn.” Unfortunately, it is easy to become hardened toward acts of violence. We have seen so many headlines of tragedies that we forget to pause and consider the lives lost were someone’s sons and daughters, someone’s spouse, or someone’s parent.
Yet Christians are called to identify with the pain of others. Jesus provided the ultimate example through identifying with our human experience. We can seek to help others by first recognizing the pain involved in tragedy.
There is nothing wrong with taking a moment to stop and feel the emotion of modern tragedies, especially when they strike close to home. When we show care and consideration for those who have experienced loss, we can better connect and offer hope to those who are hurting. We don’t need to be overwhelmed at today’s tragedies, but we also should not become immune to the seriousness of such situations.
2. Pray for All Involved
Scripture calls us to pray in all situations and to pray without ceasing. It is certainly appropriate to offer our prayers to those who have experienced tragedy. Unlike some calloused leaders who claim “thoughts and prayers” are unhelpful, believers realize prayer is the most powerful tool we have available.
Through prayer, we have access to the God of the universe, the one who can bring peace to violent situations and comfort to those who have experienced loss. We must not overlook prayer, but remain committed to lifting up those in need.
It may even be appropriate for a church or Bible study group to set aside part or all of a group time together to pray in response to a tragedy. You don’t need to live in the community where a mass shooting has taken place to respond to the event with an outpouring of prayer.
3. Help in Practical Ways
Christians are called to both pray and to act in other practical ways toward meeting needs. Galatians 6:9 encourages, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Whether through financial donations, volunteering, providing supplies, or other efforts, there is almost always a way to help to meet practical needs. Following the mass shooting of military personnel in my city of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2015, some volunteers assisted by providing free meals to emergency responders and their families. They met a need most people had not even considered, making a tremendous difference in the lives of those on the front lines of tragedy.
4. Unite Against Violence
Regardless of other differences, we can and should stand against violence in our nation and our communities. God calls us to live at peace with one another. As Christians, we should be known for leading in the call against violence.
Just this week, a grandmother in Texas discovered her 19-year-old grandson had purchased an assault rifle and had planned a shooting at a local hotel. She convinced him to check into a hospital instead, concerned for his safety—and the safety of others. Officers were also notified, searching the young man’s hotel room and finding a rifle with several loaded magazines.
Her action to unite against violence likely saved the life of her grandson and many others. Who knows how many other times God’s people have intervened to stand against other forms of violence? When we take the courage to act when we see trouble, we can make a tremendous difference in stopping tragedy before it strikes.
Responding biblically is not easy, but is essential. When we mourn with the grieving, offer diligent prayer, help in everyday ways, and unite against violence in our local communities, God will respond and lives will be changed. As Paul writes in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
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Dr. Dillon Burroughs
Dillon Burroughs serves as senior writer at The John Ankerberg Show and has written nearly 40 books on issues of faith and culture. He is also an associate editor for The Apologetics Bible for Students and has contributed to many works on apologetics and Christian worldview. Dillon is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Deborah, and their three children.