Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dealing with Newtown

When I first heard about the shooting in Newtown Connecticut last week, I didn't have a strong reaction. I feel a little bit guilty even saying that. I think the reason is that, sadly, it felt to me like just another sad chapter in an old story. Kent State, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now Newtown. A school shooting, sadly, is not something new.
This reality, however, does not make what happened last week any less tragic or horrific. And I have found myself feeling more and more saddened and sickened as the days go on. As a father of three sons, I can't imagine (nor do I want to imagine) the horror of those parents as they received the news that their children had been murdered. I can't imagine the trauma that will be experienced by the precious children who survived. I pray that it will not be lifelong and debilitating for them. The whole situation is sickening.
In the aftermath of a tragedy like this, everyone chimes in. I have read many wonderful articles, including ones from Jen Wilkin and Al Mohler. I have also read and heard many things that have made me shake my head. Everyone is searching for answers, and everyone is suggesting them.
This post is not meant to be exhaustive, but I hope it will be helpful in some way. Here are some truths that I think are important for us to keep in mind as we process this tragedy.

We Are Not Safe
Discussions about gun control and security are legitimate. I say that because some will claim that what I am about to say is fatalistic. I don't intend it to be this way. I think we should discuss safety and security and weapons. At the same time, I think a lot of us (especially those of us who are parents of young children) want to find a way to assure ourselves that we can keep our children safe. If we just get stricter gun control laws, if we just have better security, if we just diagnosed mental disorders, if we just. . .
Sure, let's consider doing those things. But let's also not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can really guarantee our own (or our children's) safety. If presidents and kings can be assassinated, do I really think that a deranged person cannot kill me or my family? I can't. I don't like this fact, but it is a fact.
The reason this is so important is that we must not place our hope and trust in our laws, or our policemen, or our guns. Psalm 20:7 says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." Psalm 146:3-5 says, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God."
Our hope is not that we can stave off death by our own efforts. Our hope is not even to avoid death. We can't. We trust in the God and Father of Jesus Christ, who gives us hope beyond the grave.

Mankkind's Problem Is Internal
For some, this shoot was about guns. For others, it was about mental illness. Both were involved, and both should be discussed. That said, we have had murders and genocide before guns were ever invented. And we have plenty of violence committed by people who do not have mental illnesses. Neither guns nor mental illness are mankind's chief problem.
In the end, we are all victims of mankind's brokenness. But we are not only victims, but also victimizers. I have never killed anyone, but people have been victimized by my harsh words, my selfish actions, and my neglect of the needy. We are all sinful. It is easy for us to agree with the Governor of Connecticut when he says, "Evil has visited this community today." He is right. It is harder for us to agree with the Bible when it tells us that we all are evil. We don't simply need someone to save us from the evil out there, we need someone to save us from the evil inside of us.
It is good and wise and loving to do what we can to minimize the evil out there. But let's never neglect the fact that evil and violence and murder have plagued every society in the history of mankind. Sadly, this will continue until Jesus returns. Only then will there be an end to death and mourning and pain (Revelation 21:3-4).

Death is the Greatest Enemy
The Newtown tragedy is so horrific because of the seeming finality to it. Those grieving parents don't get to see their children anymore. They don't get to hold them one more time. They don't get to have one last conversation. I can't imagine what they would trade for five more minutes with their children. The finality of death is what makes it so crushing.
But death doesn't have the last word. If it does, we are all doomed. We may not all die in a violent school shooting, but we will all die. Death is our enemy. It ends our lives, it separates us from one another. It ends our dreams and aspirations. Bur death does not win out. First Corinthians 15:26 says, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." Then later in verses 54-57, the Apostle Paul writes, "'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting.' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus himself said, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believe in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." (John 11:24-25)
Death is the greatest (worst) enemy. This tragedy reminds us of this. But thank God that there is hope beyond the grave. Otherwise there could be no hope or resolution in the wake of such a tragedy.

We will all process this tragedy. Most of us will grieve, feel sick, feel scared, and ask why. In the midst of this, never lose sight of the fact that Jesus offers us the ultimate security. Through him, we can have life beyond the grave. Just as he rose, we will rise. While guns and mental illness and lack of security might exist, none of those are the core problem that we need solved. We need both ourselves and our society renewed and transformed. Jesus, and Jesus alone, can and will accomplish this.

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