“So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone…” -Galatians 6:10
I missed an opportunity the day I heard about the Las Vegas terrorist attack and I am deeply troubled that I didn’t act in a way that would have overcome evil with good.
I came into a restaurant to bury my inner grief, horror and sense of helplessness with pizza…lots of pizza. I was percolating inside with a host of emotions, thoughts and anxieties as I was trying to process the latest tragedy. The young millennial lady at the counter was chipper and buoyant in a way that felt like nails on a chalkboard to my current dark and brooding existential self. She asked me “How I was doing today!” with the typical American business platitude, that everyone says, but few give a rip about. It’s the feigned civility and friendliness that plagues public space, cordial but could really care less. Before I could pastorally catch my mouth, I spurted out a raw, emotional response that somehow escaped all my professional paranoia.
I said: “Well it’s a shitty day to wake up in America.”.
She looked at me in shock, paused in a discombobulated moment and then asked “Why?”.
I referenced Las Vegas and the almost 60 shot dead and the 500 wounded, she was unaware of what had happened, which annoyed me even more. Don’t you read the news at least on snapchat, you know the stuff right next to the latest Kardashian slop? (I know that is ugly, but sometimes, we are ugly inside.) Just as I was about to go full “Get off my Lawn” mode, a customer stepped up close to us with a look of sad shock on his face.
I think he was Middle Eastern.
I looked into his eyes as he slightly gasped out a few words of unbelief, but there was another look in his face and as someone who works with refugees, particularly ones from Arabic countries, I knew that look. It’s a question that none of them I know, what to ask, but fear:
‘Was the killer a Muslim or middle eastern?’
The look in his face pierced me like an arrow. I stood there in my emotions and mental anguish, arrested by the Spirit with concerned compassion for this young man.
But I froze.
I was caught between two polarizing powers in that moment, horror and honor and horror became the emotional quicksand that swallowed up my moral self. I succumbed to a type of inner paralysis, like a deer in headlights before it’s executioner. I had a choice in that moment to overcome the evil of what had been done and what was being done in the very moment in that restaurant, but I choked…I allowed evil to triumph over goodness. Instead of using the momentum of evil against itself in an Aikido like reversal for good, I was pinned. Instead of reaching out to him in his fear and anxiety and showing love and understanding, I retreated. Instead of all of us coming together at the counter in a meaningful response of solidarity, I withdrew…defeated.
I know the way of Jesus and that He calls me to ‘respond not react’ in the face of evil, but there are times when we fail to live out that higher nature and those moments are shameful and…I am ashamed.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another…
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
So, I confess my sin publically, because I failed in public. I failed to love my neighbor as myself, which is a small sinful solidarity I shared with the Las Vegas shooter.
I share this struggle because, these are the moments that matter the most for the hope of the future. We all have to choose to respond to these events in a manner that helps repair the fabric of our community’s soul, others…and our own. When we don’t…we need to repent, then get off our knees and go overcome evil with good.