I am writing this in the aftermath of the horrific bombing at the Manchester Arena. What happened there at 10.30pm on Monday 22nd May 2017 defies description. As I listened to politicians struggle to articulate a meaningful response it seemed that words were inadequate to express what had taken place. I have been to many concerts in large arenas and know well that after show feeling, the jostling with the crowds, excited conversation with friends as you relive the highlights of the gig, wondering how long you will be stuck in traffic on the journey home. I guess these were the kind of thoughts going through the minds of those leaving the Manchester Arena after the Ariana Grande concert on Monday.
They could not have imagined that someone would at that moment be walking into the Arena with a suitcase packed full of explosives and shrapnel with the express intention of killing and maiming as many people as possible. One politician described these actions as ‘beyond evil’, whatever that means.
I believe that we always have a basic choice, to build up or knock down, to create or destroy, to love or to hate, to forgive or to condemn. One person, Salman Abedi, possibly aided by others, chose to knock down, destroy, hate and condemn. We, as individuals and as a nation, have to choose, once the shock and horror has subsided, how we respond to his choice and his actions.
In Galatians chapter 5, Paul lists what he calls the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, the qualities that are seen in the lives of those who allow the Holy Spirit to motivate and empower them. Right at the heart of that list are kindness and goodness. In the coming days there will be renewed criticism and suspicion of ‘religion’. As we choose how we respond to this atrocity we need to demonstrate that we are not interested in religion, but rather that we are passionate about following in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace and allowing his Holy Spirit to so transform and renew our minds that in all our decision making, our conversations and our actions that kindness and goodness are clearly evident.
May we be people who build up, create, love and forgive and in doing so create a climate of peace.