The number of deaths from Sunday’s bomb attack on a matatu in Eastleigh has risen to 9. Those injured are in their dozens. Chaos has erupted in the affected neighborhoods as accusatory fingers are pointed by members of one neighborhood across the fence from another neighborhood. I have now lost count of the number of similar attacks that have taken place in the last two years, one of which took place 100 meters from where I was standing. I remember a time when terrorist threats were a strange phenomenon in Kenya. The 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi had rocked the city and the country. The memories of the dead are not just carved on stone at the Memorial park; they are also etched upon the hearts of family and friends.
Not Safe at Home
After 1998, we thought that this was a once in a lifetime experience, at least I did. We will never have to worry about terrorist attacks; the only grenade many of us had seen back then was in Chuck Norris films. This single attack upon Kenyan soil was an exception, not the rule. Of course we knew that insecurity would continue in Kenya, as in any other place in the world, but not this kind of insecurity. Not grenades and bombs. That stuff is for the Middle East. It is the stuff we watch on television from the comfort of our living rooms.
At least that’s what I thought as I watched violence erupt before my own eyes, 5 years ago (2007/08). I was reclining on my favorite couch in the living room at our (former) home in Eldoret. I was with my mum and sister, and we were keeping up with the election results. When mum received a phone call telling her that we needed to leave our home because it wasn’t safe, I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. Within minutes, we had left our house with nothing but the clothes on our backs. The next several days were some of my most helpless, as our home was broken into and looted of everything. Before I could even wrap my mind around it, I was an outcast in a town that I considered home, the very place in which I had grown up and attended school.
Does God Care that we Are Dying?
At such moments as this, when even the police seem to be just as dumbfounded and overwhelmed by the insecurity, one cannot help but echo the words of Christ’s disciples, “Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38) Fear will make you do that. It will numb your memory of who Jesus is and what Jesus can do (and has done). Fear will make you question the reality and character of God in the midst of tragic times. Many are the stories of people who have turned away from the faith, even to the point of becoming atheists, after being disillusioned by such tragic experiences. Suffering doesn’t seem to sit well with the rest of our Christian walk. Ironically, it is the only thing that God guaranteed his followers. “In this world you WILL have trouble,” Many of us cannot wrap our heads around that proclamation, and that is why most will barely move beyond that fact, and onto the promise that immediately follows it, “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Last night, as I prayed for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and those who were maimed and marred by the increasing acts of violence in Kenya, I felt in a new way the weight of our helplessness in all this. It is easy to pre-occupy ourselves by hurling explosive comments at the government and offering our versions of who is to blame, what conspiracy theory is in play, and what can be done to alleviate the situation. While some of these suggestions are good and welcome, they are not our hope. Total security is not guaranteed. We can convince ourselves that we have delayed death, but we can never derail God’s calendar. Protection from a grenade attack does not guarantee not being hit by a car around the next bend.
And this is the dilemma that every believer has in this world. Every believer has this dilemma because every believer is living in two cities. In the spiritual city of God, we know that God will take care of His children; and that their security is guaranteed. However, in this physical city of man, we have a responsibility to all, including those who do not belong to the city of God.
We have a doxological responsibility to pray for our country, the government and its citizens. We have a social responsibility to raise a voice for the voiceless, speaking against injustice and inactivity in the government, while at the same time shaping minds and policies in our respective circles of influence. We have a missiological responsibility to show compassion towards those whose families and lives have been maimed by these sinful acts. We have a responsibility to express love towards them, superficially by catering to their material needs, and fundamentally by catering to their spiritual needs. We have a responsibility to share the good news of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Prince of Prince
And even though we are all praying for Kenya, asking God to restore peace and calm this chaos, we remain vividly aware that we are not seeking to change God’s mind, thwart his sovereign plan and secure our temporal comforts in the city of man; we are also seeking to know His heart, experience His power and partake in His peace. When Jesus woke up from His snooze and commanded the sea to be still, His disciples were left in awe, asking themselves, “Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:41) Little did they know that Jesus was not only able to calm the storm that raged around them, but He was also able to calm the sea that rages within them.
Jesus is our prince of peace, and yes, He may NOT ALWAYS grant our petitions and requests for instant peace and security in Kenya. However, there is one thing that we should never be uncertain about; Jesus will ALWAYS grant our petitions for eternal peace and security in our hearts if we ask Him. So we continue to pray, because we trust in a God who is sovereign over these ongoing violent effects of sin. We continue to help and rally for change, because we trust in a God who is sovereign over earthly governments. And we continue to share the Gospel, because we trust in a God who is sovereign over the soul of every man and seeks to save it from the bondage of sin and its effects.
For the fame of His name,