I suppose that having such connection has emphasised the horror of last night's massacre of so many by, apparently, terrorists from Daesh (the better name for the self-proclaimed "Islamic State"). The social media sites are filled with messages of sympathy; of outrage; of horror; and of disgust. One newspaper reports that "World leaders including David Cameron and Barack Obama have expressed their shock and outrage at the atrocities in Paris." The Prince of Wales is set to send a message of "profound sympathy and solidarity with the people of Paris" to French president Francois Hollande (and on his birthday anniversary, the dear boy - although why the newspapers should think that to be of great importance, is beyond me!).
As I read about the carnage, my thoughts and prayers go out, as do those of decent people everywhere, to those who have been so suddenly bereaved, and those who are suffering from life-threatening injuries. I am also remembering those in the French emergency services who are having to deal with horrific scenes; and those who were caught up in the attacks - remaining physically unscathed, but carrying with them, probably for the remainder of their lives, the scenes of death and destruction that surrounded them.
I am also thinking back to other atrocities committed by Daesh. I am thinking, for example, of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were murdered on a Libyan beach in February. Each one, it was reported, died with the name of Jesus on his lips. I am thinking of so many others, given the choice of denying that same Jesus, or dying - and gladly choosing physical death. I am wondering how many of those in Paris, last night, were as well prepared to meet their Creator!
Such events must, surely, make any of us realise the unpredictability of human life. How many of those who left for that concert gave even the slightest thought to the possibility that they would not survive it? Even if that awful massacre had not occurred, any one of them could have been the victim of an accident; or of the mindless violence of an individual thug.
When I was teaching, one of my S1 (11-12 year-olds) courses had to do with "Rites of Passage" - when we looked at the four major stages that appear to be, and to have been, celebrated by every culture at every time - birth; coming of age; marriage; and death. We spent some time on the subject of "death" (probably the only Department that did deal with it as a specific topic!). One of the things we learned is what is discovered by those caught up in a situation like last nights - and there have been many of them just in the year that is rapidly drawing to a close - that our basic mind-set seems to be that death will not touch us; at least, not until we are in our eighties, or older!
May I lovingly say that each one of us needs to be prepared for the moment of our own death? Not one of us knows when that will be. I might live for another twenty years; I might die before I have completed typing this post!
How may we prepare? By repenting (turning away from our sin) and placing our trust in the Lord Jesus, for salvation; obeying and serving Him. You see, our Creator God is holy. Although He is Love, He also has wrath and anger over sin, and shows no partiality. Listen to the inspired words of the prophet, Isaiah: "Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore." (Isa 59:1-2; NLT).
It is our sin that is the problem, and it must be dealt with. I know of only one way - to come to Father God, confessing your sins and sinfulness, and seeking the forgiveness that was won for you, at great cost, on a hill called Calvary. Whoever you are, humble yourself before God. Realise that you are in serious trouble with God because of your sins - about all of which He knows! There are no secret sins before his eyes. Sincerely and humbly ask him for mercy and forgiveness. Commit your heart to him. Turn from all known sin. Ask God to also reveal anything in your life that needs to change. Do it today. Don’t delay. Tomorrow may be too late. No one is guaranteed another day to prepare for death.
I have often said that, in Victorian days, the taboo subject was sex, but that everyone was familiar with death because it was so common, and because families prepared the bodies of their loved ones for burial. Today, everyone seems to know everything there is to know about the physical act of sexual intercourse; but because we have made an industry out of death, and someone else "undertakes" to make all of the arrangements, we are no longer familiar with it, and it has become the taboo subject. Perhaps that simply adds to our confusion, and revulsion, when it occurs in our midst on such a large scale.
I grieve for those, in Paris, and in the Lebanon, and in many other parts of our modern world, who are bereaved and injured. However, I grieve even more for those who will have been totally unprepared for the death that so swiftly overtook them.
Are you fully prepared? Are you?