Thoughts and Prayers and School Shootings–What’s the Missing Piece?

Parents on Wednesday afternoon wait for news after a report of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:14-17).

I committed to doing a Friday Funny each Friday here at the blog to help us end our week with a smile, but that’s hard given all that happened in Broward County this past week.  An Uber dropped off Nicholas Cruz, 19, off at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, packing a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. He confessed to shooting students in the hallways and on the school grounds, according to a police report.

Immediately on social media, politicians and pastors, Republicans and Democrats, old and young began to express their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. Others began to take umbrage with this, saying that this is either not enough or it’s a copout and an excuse for inaction.

As usual, communication broke down. Eric Metaxas expressed what many are feeling right now in how we are communicating with each other:

We live in a culture now where we are talking at each other or past each other and not talking to and with each other.

The Epistle to James is all about a Christian living out their faith and brings together both prayer and action. Yes, James uses the phrase, “faith without works is dead,” which seems to go against what the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians: “By grace are you saved through faith; it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). James is not talking about a faith-plus-works salvation but a faith-that-works lifestyle of the believer.

Is giving your thoughts and prayers a ‘copout?”  James indicates by the passage up top that seeing the need, praying, and wishing them well without taking the necessary steps to help the one in need is a copout.

Should Christians stop sending ‘thoughts and prayers’ to God on behalf of the victims? Of course not! Hebrews 4:14-16 says:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

One of the many benefits for Christians is that we have access to the throne of God. Wickedness has run rampant in this world as we turn more to solving our own brokenness rather than running to the One who can heal our brokenness through the gospel of Jesus.

But as James warns, that’s not enough! God has put us as His church to help our fellow imagebearers in every area of life (Genesis 1:26-31).

Memes abound regarding the cycle here in America:

Let’s cut to the chase:

  1. Our world is broken. Not just those who possess AR-15s and unload their chambers on defenseless school children, but anytime we end up wanting our way over others, and our way over God’s. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” We all want our own way at times apart from what is right. Think of what would happen to us if all societal and religious restraint were gone? What would we do if we could get away with it?
  2. Prayers and thoughts are needed… As the meme above us rightly notes, we forget quickly. If the issue and the victims are in our thoughts and prayers, we are less likely to forget.
  3. … but action is needed more. Talk to your kids about what happened. Talk to your schools about what’s being done to help. Contact your state and federal representatives. Ask, “Are we doing all we can to protect those that are around us?” If we have different answers to these questions, then can we talk about them without the political inflammatory rhetoric?  Something needs to be done!
  4. Christ is the answer to our brokenness.  As our Creator (Colossians 1:15-17) and our Rescuer (Luke 19:10), Jesus knows how we are wired and how we’ve moved away from the intention of our creation.  We were made for a reason and a purpose, and that purpose needs recovering! Followers of Christ recognize that we are all of value and are made in God’s image (Psalm 139:13-16) and therefore we do all we can to help the defenseless (the unborn, orphans, widows, homeless, and those dead in sin–Psalm 139, James 1:27, Ephesians 2:1-6).

Pray, yes, and don’t be ashamed to say so. But let’s take avenues necessary to do what’s next in loving our neighbor, shall we?




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