Letter to Mennonite Church USA on the Paris attacks

Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA

Ervin Stutzman is executive director of Mennonite Church USA.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Once again we find ourselves in the wretched position of mourning the loss of innocent life in the wake of political violence. The terrorist attacks in Paris shocked us all with their suddenness and cruelty. We carry deep sorrow for the victims of the attacks, their families and their communities. Please join me in holding those affected by these attacks in prayer, that they will feel the loving presence of God, even in midst of terrible pain.

The Paris attacks illuminate the fact that instances of horrific violence have become tragically commonplace. Beirut, Baghdad, Nigeria – the list of places touched by violence in just the past week are appalling. The words of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk express well our sentiments after the recent carnage: “How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ Yet you do not save.”

The prophet gave voice to the despair that comes from living at enmity with our neighbors. Jesus showed us how to live differently, loving our neighbor as ourselves. We look to Jesus, our hope and salvation in these uncertain times.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, it appears our nation and the global community will once again swallow the lie that only violence can put an end to violence. Yet that lie offers only the illusion of control while promising the false comfort of revenge.

Jesus teaches the truth – “those who live by the sword will perish by the sword.”

The lie of violence leads to presidential “kill lists,” targeted drone strikes and other brutal and savage means of death under the cover of rationalized sophistication.

Jesus teaches the truth – God calls us to love even our enemies.

The lie of violence leads us to believe that entire groups of people are too dangerous to help, even as innocent victims desperately clamor to escape the horrors of life in a war zone.

Jesus teaches the truth – “blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

The truth of Jesus and the lie of violence cannot be held together by clever arguments. It pains me to see people kill others in the name of God, even in the name of national security. I pray for God’s strength to love the people on all sides of the conflicts that are rending our world into fragments.

I pray also that Mennonite Church USA will stand firm on the foundation of Christ, even as we seek to follow God’s will. In these days when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, may we carry the Good News of Jesus into the world through acts of love, service, peace and justice. May the Holy Spirit animate us with creativity, insight and endurance as we share the light of Jesus in a world darkened by hate.

May God’s peace be with us all – our neighbors near and far and especially with the victims of terrible violence, whether in Paris or in other parts of God’s world.

Lord, hear our prayer!

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4 thoughts on “Letter to Mennonite Church USA on the Paris attacks

  1. Brain Zahnd, in his book A FAREWELL TO MARS: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace, shares a poem which he wrote during a remarkable breath of inspiration. Titled “Out of the Corner of my Eye,” the poem repeats a phrase, the first line of this excerpt:
    “Every empire of man is built upon a lie.
    So when the Christ came
    he did not bring
    another empire of men
    built upon a lie
    as the liar in the desert tempted.
    Instead he brought
    the Empire of God,
    Good News!
    The Government of justice and
    mercy, grace and truth,
    and the truth is
    every empire of man is built upon a lie,
    though every empire says,
    We have God on our side.
    So you have to decide

    Zahnd spoke in a workshop at Kansas City last summer.

  2. I think you left out some very important points in the Bible. Like Romans 13, being the main one. God sanctions punishment of evil through his divine justice.

    Passivity in terms of terrorism will not change anything. We are called to turn the other cheek in the personal sphere, yes. But nowhere does the Bible support evil ideology steamrolling us a nation.

    Prayer is the most powerful, yes. And it is in line with that that we pray God allows Romans 13 to play out.

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