Watching the news out of Norway unfold the past few days has been like watching a train wreck in slow motion: it’s bad enough, and you know it’s going to get worse, but you can’t do a thing to stop it. At first it was sporadic bits about some bomb that went off in downtown Oslo. Pictures and video followed, and all I could think of was Oklahoma City more than a decade before. Then word of the mass shooting at a nearby youth camp, and I felt my stomach turn.
Since then: 93 dead in both the blast and the shootings, all at the hands of a single man, Anders Behring Breivik. And here’s the kicker: he did it all in the name of Jesus. Cut from a radical fundamentalist Christian cloth, Breivik sees himself as a “crusader” against Islam and multiculturalism; and in some twisted and convoluted way engaged in this act of mass violence and destruction to spark a worldwide revolution. Oddly enough, he himself acknowledges his actions were “atrocious” but nevertheless believed they were “necessary.”
Violence of any kind offends us. But when someone does it in the name of Jesus, the same Jesus we worship every Sunday, the same Jesus we serve with our mission and discipleship, the same Jesus who died at the hands of this very same maddening violence, we find ourselves somewhere between incredulousness and a deep, deep sadness. We wonder what Bible they must be reading; what community of faith they were nurtured in. We rack our brains trying to understand how anyone could believe that the God of love and peace and grace and mercy would ever direct them to blow up buildings and shoot people point-blank in the head. So terribly, terribly sad.
It’s so hard to know what to do in the face of evil like this. And really, all we can do is pray unceasingly for the people of Norway and for anyone who twists the gospel in such a horrific manner to suit their own warped ideology. And as we’re doing that, it may behoove us to ask a rather poignant question – one that, oddly enough, Breivik himself forces us to address: what are we doing in the name of Jesus? How are we “living out” our faith each and every day?
A strong set of convictions is what guided the Norway shooter – some extremely misguided convictions, for sure, but a strong set nonetheless. So what are the convictions that guide you in your daily walk? Can those around you see those convictions in you? Can they see what (and who) it is you value in how you treat others, how you carry out your job, how you spend your time and your talents and treasures? What are you doing in the name of Jesus?
The truth is, whether we realize it or not, we’re already doing lots of things in the name of Jesus, simply by being followers of his; simply by being members of our church family. We live every minute of our lives in Jesus’ name. And we have this amazing opportunity to reclaim what it means to live for our Savior – and in doing so, hopefully, we can show the world what being a follower of Jesus really looks like.
If we can take anything from this weekend’s massacre in Norway, perhaps it is this: what we do matters. And whose name we do it in matters even more. Let’s continue praying for the people of Norway – and yes, even for Breivik himself – in the days and weeks to come.