The family of Lee Rigby thought he was safe. He wasn’t on the front line, but home on leave in England’s capital. It turns out that his killers were raised in Romford and Harold Hill, both places I know well.
But how should Christians respond to such a vicious attack, how should Londoners act today and tomorrow, and what is Christ’s response to this.
I don’t have all the answers, and even in a blog post I don’t have the space to even share all my thoughts, but I want to give a framework that might help people respond in a Christian way.
Firstly, it is not wrong to feel strong emotions. Clearly the true grief in this situation is with the family of the bereaved, but as people who recognise the streets and the scenery of the attack it is ok to feel anguish, angry, fear and grief. God is compassion and compassion expresses itself in emotions. Someone might feel they hope the murderers are hacked to pieces, that’s a form of compassion for the bereaved. Calling those who are angry and emotional unChristian is not helpful. Let the emotions surface and deal with them as they arise. That doesn’t mean getting emotional in any situation is acceptable or that any action can be justified by emotion, but that emotions are just part of any human response and they need to be acknowledged, admitted and allowed.
Secondly, this should not be seen as a racial event. London is a melting pot of ethnicity and has been for years. The EDF and other groups will seek to use this issue to stereotype and blame “aliens” and immigrants. The two young men were British born, with a Nigerian heritage. They went to primary school and secondary school in Havering. This transcends their culture. This is not an ethnically charged incident. It wasn’t done in the name of race. We should at this time be doing everything in our power to strengthen community links and build a truly international church in the capital where every tribe and tongue meets together.
Thirdly, the answer to the question was it terrorism. After a lot of consideration, I have to conclude that it was terrorist behaviour. Knife crime among people in that age bracket is horrendous and evil, but this something else. Not just due to the viciousness and premeditated nature of the act, but that it was filmed and designed for people to see it. It was planned to cause terror which is why I consider it was a terrorist act. It seems likely that we will find out that these young men were not linked to any terrorist groups, but acting independently. That is truly chilling. No one turned them, they just became offended at western culture and society to the point they decided to not just threaten it but desecrate it. This was a terror attack and the best way to be the head and not the tail is to not give in to terror. I have bought a Help for heroes tshirt because I want to honour the people who gave their life or health for this nation and to show I am not scared of anyone. For a Christian, we need to remember God is with us always.
Fourthly, don’t respond in anger. Feeling anger is one thing, responding in anger is another thing. Calm down. Consider. Pray. The best response to a vicious foe is to refuse to be distracted. Keep being a disciple. Keep healing the sick, keeping living the faith, keep walking in love and freedom and miracles.
Fifthly, let’s not abandon our armed forces. Some people may have other views on the legitimacy of war in the middle east, but it is a fact that soldiers are out there. Pray for them. Believe God for their best. Speak Psalm 91 over them. If soldiers are attacked in peacetime on our shores, we need to remember who we are and speak life and peace to them. We need to be faith filled not feat filled.
Sixthly, the young men who did this are not unique. They grew up in our schools, they hung around with our children, they went to our parties, we watched them grow up. There are other people, other young men – although they may be black, Asian or white – it is more than probable they will be men. Keep your eyes peeled for people who are disaffected, disassociated and disillusioned. Offer them company, encouragement, help. Ask and consider what your church is doing for young people and see if you can’t get involved. If you have noticed someone and they concern you, God allowed you to notice… Reach out to them! Show them love, show them grace.
Finally, the solution to every problem I our nation, in our city is not prayer and fasting, is not politics, is not any of that. Paul said I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1.16). The power of God to save London is only found in the gospel. We need not to change the structures so much as change people’s hearts one person at a time by telling them the good news. Islam and Christian religion look very similar. Serve God, do this to get into heaven. We need to distance ourselves from religious Christianity and come back to the good news of a God who became sin with our sin so we could enjoy righteousness, peace and joy. His righteousness. His peace. HIS JOY. Because of what He has done, not because what we have done. That is the message that changes and melts hard hearts. That is the message th at turned the Jewish terrorist Saul into the proclaimer of God’s grace, Paul. That is the message that will change the hearts of the disaffected, the angry and the frustrated today.