I confess. I was speeding just a little bit. When it comes to speeding, the saying I’ve heard is, “Eight you’re great, but nine you’re mine.” I saw the lights and heard the sirens, so I pulled over right after I exited onto Lee Highway.
The policeman wasn’t going after me, though. He circumnavigated my minivan and pulled into the parking lot of the slightly-run-down strip mall. Usually, that lot is where people go to illegally park their cars to avoid airport parking fees, but something different happened on this day.
A terrorist attacked two military recruitment offices. Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire and murdered four Marines. This act of domestic terrorism has rocked our city. It has rocked our country.
One of the recruiters at the next recruitment office on Abdulazeez’ hit list is a member of the church where I am the pastor. He and his wife called me shortly after the shootings and asked, “What should we do?” I felt led of the Holy Spirit to host a prayer vigil for our city. So, our church family and many others from our community gathered as we lit candles and prayed at length. I addressed five things to remember and for which to pray after seeing terrorism in our town. I hope they’ll help you learn how to address terrorism with a Christian ethic.
1. Avoid nationalism and racism, and ask God to give you concern for your city and country (Jonah 4:10–11)
“Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez” sounds a bit different than “John Doe.” It is obviously a Muslim name. You can tell he is of Middle Eastern descent just by looking at his picture. Most of us recognize that racism is a problem in our country. But a sin that is less discussed is nationalism—the belief that you and your country are better than someone when you compare your country to theirs. But the danger with comparing yourself with someone else is that it leads to you feel either inferior or superior to someone instead of finding your sufficiency in Christ.
The prophet Jonah saw a revival come to Ninevah, and instead of celebrating of what God did through his ministry, he threw a pity party because people who didn’t look or sound like him received salvation. His bigotry superseded his theology. God concludes the book of Jonah by explaining His merciful heart for the Assyrian people. Let’s learn from Jonah’s mistake, and instead of falling into the temptations of nationalism and racism, ask God to give us concern for the people of our city and our country who come from every tribe, tongue and nation.
2. Ask God to give peace and prosperity to your city and country (Jeremiah 29:7)
Tourism has an $893.3 million economic impact on Chattanooga (Travel Industry Association of America). Needless to say, the idea of loading up the kids and driving to visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo may be a bit hard to swallow considering a terrorist just opened fire here.
Following terroristic activity, it is important to pray for peace and prosperity. I’m theologically conservative, and sometimes my fellow conservative friends get the heebeegeebees at the mention of the word “prosperity.” They automatically associate it with the name-it-and-claim-it vein of theology. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about asking God to provide economic health to an otherwise vulnerable situation that could threaten the welfare of our neighbors.
3. Pray for your city to become a place of refuge and rest instead of a place of terror (Psalm 5:11)
I want my city to be a place of refuge and no longer a place of terror. Yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam addressed the sadness of the scenic city when he said, “Chattanooga is a great city with a broken heart.” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said, “This is a tragic day for our city.” Yes, we have been terrorized. I will not leave my house today with the same carefree attitude as I did the day before. However, it doesn’t have to stay that way. I will pray for this place to become a city of refuge where people can come to find a message of Hope and the rest they long for.
4. Pray for God to use this tragedy to stir up conversations about Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
The Apostle Paul spoke of the Thessalonians’ proclamation of Jesus to the Macedonians and Achaians, but then it went everywhere, and they received a “warm reception” when talking about Jesus. My prayer is that God would help us in the midst of this tragedy to have a warm reception as we seek to talk about Jesus. After all, this is the kind of time when people start thinking about their own life and death. May God give evangelistic opportunities in the midst of hurting hearts and trembling souls.
5. Pray for revival (Jonah 3:6-10)
Lastly, this tragedy should be a reminder of the need for the Holy Spirit to cause revival to sweep across America and the world. Yes, we need to think through the policy implications that might have prevented an attack like this. Yes, we need to beware of those with associations and fascinations with extreme violence. However, more than anything, we need Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.