Dear Grace Family,
As I write this article for the June newsletter I am filled with a variety of emotions in the wake of the mass shooting, the murder, of a classroom of children. I am broken hearted. I am confused and frustrated. I am angry. And I feel helpless. And that doesn’t really begin to describe all that I am feeling as it has been less than 24 hours since I first learned of this horrible, unimaginable tragedy and I am still trying to process something that will never make sense. I imagine you are, or did when you first heard about it, feeling similarly.
I really dread writing about it. I do. I would rather not be writing about another instance of senseless gun violence that has become all too common in our country. I do not have any insight theologically, existentially, psychologically, politically or societally that you have not already heard. I also do not have an answer to how we can, as a society, stop this from happening again. But I am outraged and as your Pastor feeling somewhat obligated to say something because these tragedies often raise questions that involve God.
Now, God does not me to defend Him, not do I have the wisdom to understand God, as I have said a number of times. But, there are a few things I believe to be true that bear mentioning. God did not cause this to happen just as God is not the cause of any tragedy, natural or unnatural. From the most basic theological perspective sin is the cause. Sadly, in the past I have heard that God brought tragedy into our world as a punishment for sin. This happened when hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area. I heard it when there was a mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas several years ago. I heard it when the AIDS virus first reared its ugly head and killed thousands.
It is unlikely that anyone would say the shooting in Texas happened because God was punishing specific people, but it would not surprise me if there is some wacko pastor out there saying God is punishing our country for some form of immorality. One of the many reasons I do not agree with this argument is because it misrepresents how God understands sin or sinful acts. God does not have a ranking system for sin. We are all corrupted by sin and each act of sin, no matter how ‘great’ or ‘small’ is an offense to God. The unkind thought is just as bad as the mass murder of children. That is hard to type, and hard to believe, but it is true. This is one of the many things that makes God’s grace so amazing.
I also believe that God is not responsible by omission. In other words, God did not make a choice to allow or prevent this tragedy, or any other tragedy, as a matter of His will. I have heard it said after a tragic event that it happened because it was God’s will. Death and pain are not the will of God. God’s will for us was peace and perfect tranquility and He gave us the option to live that life and Adam and Eve chose a different option. A cruel simile would be, ‘We (humans in general) made our bed, now we get to lay in it.’ It is much more complicate than that. There have been countless books written about this subject and this is simple newsletter article, so the simplistic viewpoint will have to do.
I also believe that God’ heart is even more broken than yours, mine, or the totality of humanity over this horror. God’s love for each of us is infinite and anytime something like this happens God is heartbroken. I cannot begin to imagine how God feels watching over an over the unspeakably horrible things we humans do to each other since the dawn of time. And yet he never gives up on us. That is immeasurable grace. Here is another difficult truth. God’s heart breaks for the perpetrator of this heinous act because he was also one of His children. That is radical grace. Can’t say that like that one. Just being honest.
So, what can we do? I wish I knew. What we cannot do is what seemingly we as a society and we as a government have been doing in response to these kinds of tragedies, and that is nothing but lip service. We send out thoughts and prayers to the victim’s families and the communities where they happen, and we mourn for a couple days then we move on until the next mass shooting. Has there been any legislation passed to address this kind of gun violence? Has there been enough discussion about what leads 16-23 year old males to resort to mass murder as an option in life and the mental health issues in our country? How about holding social media outlets more accountable instead of accepting they are protecting people’s privacy when so many of these young men post obvious evidence that they are about to snap and nobody is warned? Can we sit idly by and wait for the next tragedy?
I for one feel helpless. The problem seems overwhelming. It is. We will never bring an end to senseless violence completely. That will happen at the Second Coming. But, we have changed the course of history before when enough people say, “ENOUGH!” Is now such a time? I pray that it is.
I realize this is probably not going to be one of your favorite newsletter articles you have read from me. It is uncomfortable and lacking the typical positivity I usually write about. But, discomfort is what often leads to change and as your Pastor I am not just charged with sharing the good news and the happy things in life. God has always chosen people who live in a broken world to be truth tellers and a light in the darkness because darkness is also part of our reality. And He chose us to identify the dark places in our world and to do something. We are the light. How will you shine yours?
Yours in Christ,