It’s hot. Really hot. Blazing sunshine all day and still 35 Celsius in the shade just after 8pm. Tomorrow is forecast to be even hotter. It means that we are perhaps not quite so enthusiastic in our lessons; although my class has the benefit of being in a slightly cooler basement room!
We are hurting with the rest of France for those who have lost loved ones, friends, colleagues and neighbours in the awful tragedy of Nice just a few days ago. It was good to take part in a minute’s silence today at school and to follow that with a prayer time for those affected.
We are humbled by the pain that so many in France have had to bear over the last years: if you search for “terrorist attacks in France” you will see that there has been a significant increase in the last few years. It is perhaps too easy for Christians to say that we know that this is but one expression of the nature of a fallen world in rebellion against God, it sounds somehow too pat, too simple. Better perhaps to weep with those who weep, to show love and compassion wherever possible.
Just the night before the Nice attack we were in Versailles with some French friends, watching a thrilling and amazing late-night fireworks display, along with thousands of others. How susceptible such events are. On Sunday we spent time with visiting friends from London in central Paris: the tourist honeypots were thronged with people. Should we stop all gatherings of people, in the name of security? Surely not.
None of us can fully comprehend the hate which drives some to make such horrific attacks. But Christians can show love in the face of hate, acceptance to those who feel rejected, compassion and tenderness to those who hurt (for whatever reason). We can tell how our friend Jesus was insulted, abused, misunderstood, rejected, persecuted, hated, despised, unjustly accused, criminalised, ridiculed, spat on, tortured, then subjected to an excruciating exectution. Why? Because he loves us.
He loved the soldier who drove the nails into his hands and feet, the men and women who shouted and spat at him, the bewildered followers, the man who promised to follow him even through death and then denied him totally. He loves me who continues to wound him by my mistakes and wilful disobedience. He loves you, whoever you are. Yes, he loved the man who drove that truck, just as much as he loved Mary who wept at the cross. He loves those who maybe even now are planning death and destruction somewhere in the world. He loved and loves each and every one, exactly the same, and offers complete forgiveness to each and every one of us who calls on him in truth.
So, for Christians, we should perhaps not try to analyse or apportion blame, but simply to love each person, in prayer and in action. It was encouraging that in our prayer time today at school after the minute’s silence, we prayed for our Muslim neighbours in France. They are hurting, trying to understand why it is claimed that something awful has been done in their name. They are afraid of how the people in their street, their block of flats, will look at them and think of them. If you have chance, find a practical way to show Jesus’ love to these hurting neighbours.
And please, keep praying for France. Pray for a breakthrough, that the love of Jesus would flood this country and the kingdom of God would significantly advance. Pray for revival here.