In the last few days we have all been shocked and saddened by news of yet more mass murders–shootings of people who were at everyday places doing everyday things and thinking they were safe.
But were we really shocked and saddened?
I have wrestled with what to say about these incidents as I watch the news coverage and then listen to people around me–family, friends, people in the neighborhood, people I don’t know.
Interestingly, other than the politicians and news people, I hear no one talking about these tragedies.
Why is that? Maybe it is because we are already numb from other reports of other tragedies. Maybe we just don’t care (I doubt this). Maybe we don’t want to talk about it–as though not talking about it will make it like what it already seems to be–another TV program that isn’t real.
Whatever the reason, I believe we as representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Prince of Peace should have a response. But what should it be? Before I go there, may I suggest what it should NOT be? We should not respond in bitterness and with revenge–particularly when those we would take the revenge out on aren’t even the perpetrators, but people WE THINK are like them. THEY should all be shot. THEY should be locked away. THEY shouldn’t be allowed in the country (even though virtually all of the shooters were American). We shouldn’t respond by seeing this as an opportunity–or even a mandatory opportunity–for political statements and shots at “them” (the “other” party or people). (Side note: I suspect every word coming out of the mouths of the politicians in response to these incidents–regardless of what party or view point–simply adds to the root problem in this country.
So what is that problem? Well, remember as an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven I have to be real. The problem is sin. Yours. Mine. Theirs. And this isn’t just a philosophical or theological response. It is a very pragmatic and practical observation which, if we pay attention to the one we serve–comes with a solution: repentance. Ours–not anyone else’s.
Of course I haven’t shot anyone recently (yes, I did actually at one time, but that’s another story and it involved people foolish enough to ask me to go hunting with them). I don’t even WANT to shoot anyone. So why should I repent? Because I sin by fear, and the behavior and words that it produces. Because I sin by ignoring people around me who are hurting. Because I sin when I pursue my own happiness and prosperity and forget I am here on a mission. Because I sin when I “take sides” in a debate that, in the end, ignores people who are hurting so much they would hurt others. Because I sin when I just don’t care enough to do something close to home.
And if I repent, and you repent, and anyone else who actually cares repents we set an example of saying “Yes, there are things I am doing wrong which might exacerbate this problem.” Others will see it, and if enough of us do this, maybe it will make a dent. Maybe it will encourage others to tone down the divisive rhetoric and the hate speech (and I am speaking to BOTH the right and left wings, and anyone else on the political aircraft). Maybe it will encourage us to pay attention to people who are mentally ill, or just plain bent. Will it stop all the shootings? No one knows–I certainly don’t. But it is the right thing to do.
What does this look like in concrete terms? I (using myself is supposed to sound less judgmental, but let’s face it, this is all of us) need to:
- Remember why I am here and begin using every opportunity to build bridges with anyone and everyone so I can more effectively serve as an ambassador for my King.
- Speak clearly and often of the King’s love and willingness to accept and heal anyone who is hurting. I need to speak TO that hurting person, not about him. I need to take time to tell him (or her) that someone cares and then show him I mean it. And I need to do it BEFORE that person is so hurt and bent that they are buying weapons and planning to hurt anyone and everyone just to try to make themselves feel a bit less helpless and hopeless. I need to say to kids “These aren’t necessarily the best years of your life. It gets better! Hang in there and let’s look at how you can make that real.” I need to get involved with people just like Jesus did before He told them what they were doing wrong.
- I need to pay attention to people and not just join in the conspiracy of silence that says if I ignore this stuff it will go away. I need to ask people, “How are you taking this news?” and then LISTEN. I need to tell people I don’t have all the answers, but I know someone who does. I need to pray for and, if they are willing (yeah, we have to ask them) WITH these people. And of course, if I know anyone who is directly involved or affected by any of these tragedies I need to just tell them “I’m here. I don’t have the words to make this go away, but I care enough to be awkward and tell you that you aren’t alone.”
- I need to avoid “bandwagons” of blame, and not get caught in the polarization that is unfortunately natural in situations like this. Instead, I need to help people understand why others might disagree and not be “snowflakes” or “haters”. And I need to watch my mouth and not join in the adolescent labeling and banter that seems to be the norm in the leaders of this world. I have to remember that I am not of this world, and my leader would never say or even think things like that.
- I need to talk with my King constantly to keep me on focus, asking for the wisdom He promised and the strength and love to be faithful.
What will all these things accomplish? If every disciple of Jesus practiced these things, they would change this country. But I am not responsible for every disciple. Just me. And doing these things will simply make me obedient to my King.
Disciples of Jesus–Know Him and Be Faithful.