This week at work I have encountered something that I never thought I would. A terrorist threat was made against our university, my workplace. It was a very general threat on a website somewhere, nothing specific, but it could not be ignored. The Vice Chancellor wrote a general message that any students or staff that felt ‘unsafe’ could stay home without being disadvantaged. The police were involved.
The threat turned out to be nothing, the whole thing was a non-event, there turned out to be absolutely nothing to worry about but it brought some interesting thoughts to the surface.
I have to admit that my first thought was that the Vice Chancellor had gone and messed up and given everyone an extra day off uni. People could not seriously be worried by this, could they? Surely every one was taking advantage of an extra day off due to an obviously spurious threat. ‘The poor darlings’ I thought, as I answered the emails telling me they were not coming in to lab class, ‘the poor scared darlings. Having to take time off uni because they are terrified. Slackers.’
But then, but then.
We all watch the news. And every day or almost every day we see these attacks happen. Over and over again, innocent people on their way to work or to school are slaughtered. All the time people sitting in lecture theatres or eating their lunch in cafeterias are gunned down. Why should it not happen here? Why should we think that just because we live on a tiny island, with no population to speak of, and no major landmarks or political entities, that we should be immune from these awful happenings?
After the third or fourth student email I started to take the threat seriously myself. Despite the fact that there were many reasons to pooh-pooh the danger, I realised that I needed to think it through. What if it were serious? What if today was my last day on earth? Was I prepared?
I found myself singing as I packed my lunch and drove down the highway:
I trust in you oh Lord
I say you are my God
My times are in your hands
I had to face the fact that death that day was a possibility. Just in case. If that day the unbelievable happened and something actually came from the threat then I needed to be prepared as I went into work.
As my lab class started there were still a few students who hadn’t heard the news. Some stayed to perform the lab class, but some showed up, found out about the danger and just packed up their bags and left again. One was having a panic attack and left quite abruptly.
Those of us remaining had a very nice quiet lab class. The students received much more attention than they would normally be entitled to and the lab finished very early.
At lunchtime I met with a Christian friend of mine for coffee. The place was deserted so we got the coffee very quickly! But as we sat chatting I realised that my preparation for death, my thoughts, hadn’t gone far enough.
‘What if I had a gun to my head’ she asked ‘and I was asked to deny Jesus. Would I have the strength to stay true to my faith?’
This was the question that she had been forced to consider by this threat. Would she deny her life, her husband, her small children, her friends and stay true to her faith? That’s what Christianity is about. Jesus calls us to die, to ‘take up our cross’ and follow him. Here in safe little Tasmania, in our western ’christianised’ country, we tend to ignore it. We ignore the call to die. We think that the kind of pain being experienced by Christians all over the world will never be felt by us. That we are far too civilised to allow that to happen.
Yesterday I had to face the fact that it only takes one uncivilised person to destroy the illusion of safety.
I am very grateful that nothing happened to us yesterday. I am grateful for the safe place that I live in. For the ability to worship in peace. But I want to say here and now that if the time comes and a gun is put to my head, I hope I will stand with Jesus. For better or for worse.