Once again, a crude terror attack has taken place in our capital. Five people have been confirmed dead – including one police officer and the perpetrator – whilst around 40 others have been seriously injured. Details of the events can be found here.
So how are we to respond to such attacks? Here are some simple things we might consider.
Carry on as normal
There is no doubt at all that those who carry out these attacks are looking to do much more than kill a handful of people. They don’t want to hurt a few, they want to strike fear into the many. It is heartening, then, that the Houses of Parliament are sitting as normal today. There is no change to the schedule. London itself has carried on much as before. This is exactly the sort of response required. To change our behaviour and begin to live in fear is to let the terrorists succeed.
We must now be sure not impose knee-jerk reactive safety measures. No doubt there will questions about what could be done and what lessons can be learnt. Whilst it is conceivable that some preventative measure might have been possible, this is only true if the attacker was on the radar of security services (for which there has to be a reason) and there was some intelligence that said something was going to take place. Barring these things, and prevention is only a conceivable possibility even if these things are true, there is nothing that can be done. We cannot account for someone hiring a car and mowing down innocent by-standers.
The natural impulse is to now start asking ‘what can be done?’ And history suggests that we will seek to do something, even if just to make ourselves feel better. Such somethings tend to be ineffective against the problem at hand and rather effective at curtailing the liberty of all those who would seek to live peaceably. Let us carry on as before, let us not begin curtailing the freedom of all because of one man. Let us show that we are not scared and that that a liberal democracy will not cease to be a liberal democracy simply because a tiny, insignificant number wish to do harm.
Love you Muslim neighbour
I can say from experience that your Muslim neighbours will be more terrified than anyone today. Regardless of what some may believe, the vast majority of Muslims in no way support this sort of terrorist action. Most Muslims people believe Islam to be a religion of peace and wish to live peacefully. We can get into discussions about what the Qur’an actually says, or what certain brands of Islam demands, but these shoot past the issue. Many, if not most, Muslims do not recognise Islam in this way. Muslim people in Britain will today be terrified that they will all be tarred with the same brush and potentially targeted as a result.
The best response is to love our Muslim neighbours. Let us not begin a game of guilt by association (as if the Muslims near you have any link to the man who carried out the attack anyway). Let us truly reflect the truth of the gospel and love our Muslim neighbours. Let us listen to their concerns and fears, show them that we do not believe they are the same as this man and let us show the love of Christ to them. If a terror attack is designed to spread fear, the Bible tells us the antidote to fear is love.
Whilst we should not shrink back in fear, the truth is that at times like these we are confronted with the reality of death. The world is not as God originally intended it to be. Death is simultaneously the most natural, and yet most unnatural, thing in the world. Inevitably, our thoughts at this time must turn to the reality of our finite span.
The brutal truth is that none of us will escape death and we cannot know when it will come to us. The question is whether we are ready to face it? The Bible tells us ‘it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgement’ (Heb 9:27). Just as death is inevitable so is the judgement of God. The question is not so much are you ready to die but what will you say when faced with a righteous and holy God?
For the Christian, the answer is not that we are good people. It is not that we hope we’ve done enough to warrant getting into Heaven. For us, the answer is Jesus Christ. It is by our union with him, through the forgiveness of our sin in him, through the righteousness we receive from him, that we are counted right with God. The reason we can say we are ready to meet our maker is because we have nothing to fear in standing before him.
As the apostle John says:
13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also 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 been perfected in love. 19We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:13-19)
Jesus came to be the saviour of the world. By faith in him, our sin has been dealt with at the cross. So now, we have no cause to fear because God loved us enough to send his Son to die for us and, by faith, grant the forgiveness of sin. Where sin has been forgiven, there is no fear because there is no threat of punishment any longer. Are you, on that basis, ready to meet your maker?
If a terrorist atrocity is designed to engender fear, let us know that perfect love which drives out fear. Let us carry on as before, let us love our neighbours (especially our Muslim neighbours) with that perfect love that comes from the Father. Let us know the joy of freedom from fear because of the perfect love and forgiveness we receive from the Father.