By Andy Bramsen

As we reflect on the horrific acts of evil in Beirut and Paris that have killed scores  and inflicted terror on the people of those cities and beyond, we grieve with them and pray for the Lord’s mercy and comfort. Yet it is all too easy to turn from mourning with the suffering to becoming hardened toward anyone who shares a national, religious, or ethnic identity with the perpetrators. This turn from sorrow to a hatred fueled by fear stems from a natural desire for self-preservation. Sadly, I am already seeing evidence of this in news and social media.

But as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called not to fear but to love. We are called not to focus on our own interests, but to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry, as we would serve Christ Himself. If we are serious about being Christ followers, we must take seriously the command He gave to His disciples: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).

Part of taking up our cross involves loving and caring for all in need as we have opportunity to do so, remembering that the needy are our neighbors whether they seem safe or not. And as we do so, we remember that our Lord chose not the path of safety, but the way of the cross.

So today I challenge us to reflect anew on what it means to live out the prayer of St. Francis.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Andy Bramsen is an assistant professor in political science at Bethel University. He serves on the vestry at Church of the Redeemer.