“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”. (1 John 2:17 NIV)
Many of us woke, or became aware, yesterday morning of yet another mass shooting. My Sunday mornings tend to be a bit full, so I missed all of this until I arrived home from church in the early afternoon.
“50 dead, 50 wounded” At least that was the number I first heard. Hopefully, as is often the case in situations like this, the numbers reported won’t be accurate. But I fear they will be close. The loss of life is staggering. The emotional damage down to the survivors is more than one can grasp. And we haven’t even addressed the ancillary pain of friends and family.
I’m disheartened not only by the loss of life, but by how frequent this has become for us. In order to deal with the tragedy, we develop coping mechanisms. We can become but hard and cynical. How can we live in a world where mass loss of life, shootings, bombings, a man wildly swinging a machete in a neighborhood restaurant is as common in the news as the sports?
I’ve watched with interest how quickly everyone begins to point fingers at someone else as to the cause of the tragedy. I understand it. If we can point fingers at a group we give ourselves the false hope that we can end such violence and pain. It doesn’t matter if the reasons make sense just give me a group to blame. tell me we should all be able to see this coming. I don’t want to live in a world where its possible for a person or a group to simply commit random violence.
So how do we as the church respond in times like this? Does the church have any answers beyond a generic “we stand beside” posts we set up on social media? Not only do I believe the church has an answer, I belve we have the only response that truly matters. How do we respond?
We respond with anger. I know that might surprise you since we are taught as children Christians aren’t supposed to get angry. But God gets angry. Jesus got angry. Anger is a healthy emotion that reflects a part of the image of God in our lives. Anger causes us to act,. It causes us to make a difference when we see injustice and pain. Now anger isn’t hatred. It can easily become hatred so it must be tempered. But it’s Ok to get angry at the loss of life and prayerfully decide how you can best respond to it.
We respond with Love. Powerful, life changing unconditional love. Love not just for the victim, but for everyone involved. Yes even the shooter. How can we love someone like that? We can’t. But Jesus can, and will love through us if we allow Him to do so. Just as in the depths of our sin, Jesus loves us, so ought we love others. In this case that love might need to extend beyond the crime and those involved and reach out to others around you at this moment. The world needs a witness that evil is not always the response to evil. They need to see a church able to respond in love to everyone. This love leads to transformation. The love of Jesus ought not be confused with empathy. empathy is good. But the love of Jesus transforms and changes people. It breaks the power of sin and transforms our hearts.
We respond with hope. I love the verse at the top of this page. The church has hope not because we think people will eventually get better and be nicer. No we have hope because we know evil will not win. All the evil we witness in the world will one day pass away. It has no staying power. It will pass away. But those who do the will of God will last forever. I have hope, even in grief because I know evil will not last, But Jesus, who sits on the throne, even in the darkest of days will redeem our world in the end.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><