While most Christians in Sri Lanka were in church yesterday morning, celebrating the risen Christ on Easter Sunday, bombs went off in four of our cities (Kochchikade, Negombo, Batticaloa, and Colombo), targeting churches and hotels. The latest figures seem to leave us with at least 290 dead and 500 injured from the eight bombings. Some arrests have been made.
There are hints emerging as to who is responsible for the attacks, but I do not want to speculate too much on that and unnecessarily implicate those who are not involved in this crime. It is better to be safe and remain silent than to give false witness, which is a serious sin. We pray that God would guide the security officials to whom he has given the authority to be agents of his wrath, punishing wrongdoers (Romans 13:3–4). As for Christians, we will do what we can to be agents of peace in our fractured land (Romans 12:14–21).
Close to Home
The Zion church in Batticaloa, where at least 28 were killed (including many children), is a vibrant church at which I have preached several times. The pastor was out of the country at the time of the bomb blast. The sister of our Youth for Christ leader in Eastern Sri Lanka, Thamendran, was worshiping there and is fighting for her life in the hospital, with serious head injuries.
A young man from our sports ministry lost one of his legs in the Colombo explosion. A neighbor couple of ours and their daughter died, and their young son is in the hospital. As far as we know, there is one former Youth for Christ clubber who died in Colombo.
Five Ways to Pray
While it may seem foolish to spend time praying when there is a crisis around us, this is the most powerful thing God’s people can do in a national crisis (2 Kings 19). We need to mobilize individual and corporate prayer among Christians.
1. For Holy-Love
Please pray that the church would act with maturity, reflecting the holy-love of God: on the one hand, insisting that the authorities will carry out a thoroughgoing investigation and will punish the wrongdoers; and on the other hand, personally and corporately showing love to all, including our enemies. We cannot afford to let hatred blunt our witness. God will judge the wicked, and he will do that often through government institutions. Our belief in the doctrine of judgment takes away our bitterness over gross sinfulness like this. On our part, we do what we can do, and that is to love our enemies.
2. For Faithfulness
Pray that the church would faithfully carry out its calling to be an agent of healing in broken situations. Individually, we can get close to suffering people. I prayed with my Hindu neighbor this morning when he came home to tell me that his sister had died in the blast. We also can get involved in a more corporate way in bigger projects.
3. For Healing
Pray for the injured and for their speedy recovery, and pray for the medical services to do their work well.
Pray also for the emotionally scarred and for their steady recovery. This is a time when we can be agents of the God of all comfort through our listening and ministering (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
4. For Comfort and Strength
Pray for God’s comfort and strength to the many Christian and non-Christian people who have been devastated by the loss of their loved ones.
5. Against Unrest
Pray that extremist forces would not use these incidents to cause unrest in the country. Christians can act as moderating agents because, while we may be enraged by what happened, we are freed from bitterness as we know that a just God who controls history is greater than the problems.
We look at everything in life through the lens of our belief in a God who is holy-love. We know that he judges the wicked, and so we are not bitter. We know that he loves the world and that we are called to be agents of that love. This drives us to action. But we don’t do so with a defeatist attitude. We know that God is building his kingdom, culminating in the return of Christ, and that our actions are building blocks in this process.
Holy-love must win in the end! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20).