I’ve thought long and hard about what I should say (if anything) after the tragedy in Newtown, CT this past Friday. The last thing I wanted was to create the appearance that I was trying to cash in or climb onto my political soapbox.
Many of you – my friends and customers – know that I am a Christian. Because I take that seriously, I cannot help but look at this horrible event through the Christ-colored glasses of my faith. That is not to say that I have (or think to know) the mind of Christ. But my worldview is shaped and molded by my faith in Christ. And I would have it no other way.
When I think about the latest and most widely-reported tragedies that have occurred recently – 12 dead in an Aurora theater, Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, 3 dead in a Clackamas mall, 27 dead in a Newtown elementary school, 2 police officers dead three nights ago here in Topeka – I don’t see (as the root) a gun problem, a socio-economic problem, a security problem, or a mental health problem; I see a sin problem. The root of these and all horrific crimes – both reported and ignored – is sin.
And though we live in and are most appalled by crimes that happen on our own soil, violent sin is not just an America problem. We know this in our heads, but sometimes we think of the US as if it’s the whole world. Two stories immediately come to mind: the 3-day Beslan School Massacre in which 334 hostages died in 2004 and the story of Aesha Mohammadzai whose Taliban in-laws cut off her ears and nose in 2010.
And violent sin is certainly not a new problem. It’s root runs deep in the sands of time, all the way back to a beautiful garden where a man and his wife doubted God and believed a lie and whose son attacked and killed his brother.
It’s no secret (regardless of how much we like to pretend otherwise) that, as a whole, we… people… are sinful from birth. Sure, it feels good to think of our children as angels. But the truth is we don’t have to teach them to lie. We don’t have to teach them to steal or be greedy. And we don’t have to teach them to walk away from someone they hurt. We need to teach them how to tell the truth, even when it’s scary. We need to teach them that we need to ask before we touch things that belong to others. We need to teach them to share. And we need to teach them to apologize.
One of the biggest hurdles in this is that society says that we each make our own truth and that any sense of a moral absolute infringes upon the rights of those who disagree.
The most significant problem that arises from this line of thinking is that when someone kills (among others) 20 children, we have no ground upon which to stand and tell them that they’re wrong. They’re simply embracing and acting on the truth that they’ve made for themselves. Who are we to contradict them? Our truth only applies to ourselves and theirs to them. And if we truly believe that each person makes his own truth, why should we even care?
When we bring our children up telling them that need to decide moral standards and the concepts of right and wrong for themselves, our words of condemnation ring hollow. And, if we think about it deeply and honestly, I believe that most of us would agree that it is deluded (at best) to assume that a child is capable of creating sustainable moral standards for themselves.
Add to this a near global isolation, in which we are connected to one another only by the electric impulses that make up Facebook and other “social” media where most “contact” with other people occurs via a few quick keystrokes. And sharing a photo, video, or quote is considered an emotional investment in the lives of others.
It’s no wonder a human life is cheaper than ever and there are those who see it as completely expendable.
But it’s not.
We are costly.
We have immeasurable value.
Each of us has been bought with a price.
And that price was the life of God’s only son, whom he willingly offered on our behalf as full payment against the debt created by our sin. It’s not really his birth that we celebrate this time each year; it’s the reason behind his birth: his death. Without his death on our behalf, his birth would have meant little more than any other birth and it would have been long forgotten by now.
I am absolutely heart-broken at the events that have brought so much death, pain, and suffering and would not wish them to happen to anyone. But I also know that in this world, because of sin, we are not promised another tomorrow – not when we’re six, or thirty-six, or ninety-six – and we should cherish and be thankful for every minute we have in this life.
We need to thank God for the love he showed and the gift he gave through the death of his son. We each need to accept the payment on our behalf. It’s similar to what takes place in a court of law. If a judge has ordered financial reparations be paid by a guilty defendant and another party steps up and agrees to pay the fine, the defendant must accept the offering before the court will honor it. If he doesn’t, he is held accountable.
We do not want to be held accountable. I’m sure we’re all “good people.” A lot of us, when asked about the goodness of ourselves or others respond with, “They’ve/I’ve never killed anyone.” As if that’s the measuring stick by which goodness is defined: have they killed anyone? Deep down, I think most of us can admit that to think of our goodness in these terms is extremely shallow and we don’t deserve most of the blessings we have received in this life.
But we still want to be in control; we want to be in charge. We want to make up our own minds about right and wrong, good and evil. If we do, we are asking the judge to let us pay our own fine. A fine we cannot afford to pay. Please, accept the free gift of salvation and know that, if the tomorrow you expect is snatched away from you, your debt has been paid.
Please, for your children’s sake, teach them that there are moral absolutes and that their actions have consequences, both temporal and eternal. Teach them that they will be held accountable to something much bigger than themselves. And teach them that such accountability is a good thing, not a bad thing. Teach them that God is real and that he can be trusted with their hurts, their fears and their future.
Sin will never be eradicated in this life. That’s a fact. But I believe that we can push back the swelling tide of evil in this world by inviting the saving power in the death of Christ to do its work in us.
I know that I have not even come close to a comprehensive discourse on any of this. There are things that I’ve left out. Things that I’ve looked at with a completely subjective eye. Things that I have over-simplified.
My hope is that I have encouraged you, if nothing else, to at least consider the possibility that reliance on and faith in God can make a difference for good.