Tough thoughts in light of a tragic event…

20 12 2012

I write this post with a heavy heart and admitted naivety. I want to mention a few thoughts on anger, retaliation, our words, forgiveness, and death in light of the tragic event that occurred in Connecticut. While I am unsure of the total number of children and teachers that lost their lives, even one life cut short in this manner is enough to grieve immensely. My prayers have been going out to families of victims and all others effected. My prayer is that the Lord would be with them all in this emotionally charged time so that they would be able to grieve and respond appropriately in the presence of the Spirit’s comfort. Also, I pray the Lord in His timing would allow healing to take place and that those living that experienced this event would maintain psychological stability after such a traumatic experience. I pray all of this that the Lord may be glorified in this situation through the healing of those whom He loves.I am sure you all know, but to clarify, a young man killed his mother and walked into an elementary school and started shooting students and teachers. From what little I could gather from the media, the motives aren’t certain, but he was said to have had trouble fitting in with the community. This is a tragedy that I will not belittle by attempting to relate to and praise the Lord I have not experienced such evil. I looked at my Facebook news feed the next day and saw a variety of opinions and emotions painting this huge picture of belief. Being the opinionated person I am, I feel the need to add to the commentary and attempt to draw the conversation towards the scriptures and a Christlike worldview.Please, forgive my shortcomings in my attempt.

The first point I would like to address is the all too common question in situations such as these, “How could someone do that?” This is a question that Billy Graham answered in response to a similar question about the sinful state of the world. He pointed out that it was all made possible when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and fell out of communion, or fellowship, with God (Genesis 3). I do not have time or adequate knowledge for an exhaustive explanation of man’s fallen nature based on the doctrine of original sin. Nevertheless, due to the corruption of man’s spirit at the fall, the human race now has an inherit sinful nature. If we are cultivating this sinful nature by a lack of acceptance of the Lord’s sacrifice(Jesus), repentance of sin, and guidance from the Holy Spirit, then our corrupted, dynamic spirit can navigate its way to the manifestation of monstrously vile actions. This is the simplest and most profound reason tragedies like this are possible.

Many are asking what this world is coming to with such terrible things happening, and this is a question I simply don’t understand. The world and those in it have dealt with this type of tragedy numerous times. Again let’s look at biblical examples. During the time of the birth of Moses the current pharaoh was having all the male children born to the Israelites killed(Exodus 1:22). Upon the birth of Jesus, Herod had all the children two years old and under massacred(Matt. 2:17). I don’t point these things out to belittle the current happening. I simply don’t believe the world is worse or better. Just fallen in the same capacity it was fallen back in the times of Moses and of Jesus. As this all sounds so depressing, I feel now is a good time to point out a glorious truth. For all of the tragedy produced by our fallen nature, hope has burst on to the scene for a new creation! The first fruit of this new creation came in the resurrection of Jesus. Proof that God is reconciling all of creation to Himself in absolute justice and grace by way of the Son (Col. 1:19-20). In this I will forever rejoice.

Now to address the though that inspired the composing of this entire blog. I was very sad to see many of the responses to the tragedy on various social media sites were full of hate and contempt. I know there are many that are going to disagree with me on this and I am prepared to be respectful in those disagreements. My points of contention come from the Holy Scriptures. Jesus, Paul, and James all had stern teachings on anger. The first thing I want to speak of is Jesus’s kingdom mentality stated during the Sermon on the Mount. He proclaimed that “if you are angry with your brother you are liable to the council” to which murderers are subjected (Matt. 5:22). The word translated “brother” means “all men” in the context it is being used, as defined in Thayer’s Lexicon(1889). This means anger directed towards any human is misplaced for the citizens of the Kingdom. In Ephesians 4:26, Paul said, “Be angry, and do not sin: let not the sun go down on your anger.” He goes on in verses 31-32 to renounce any bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice towards [one’s neighbor]-implied from verse 25. I want to note that the emotion of anger isn’t condemned here. Rather it is the act of cultivating and speaking out of this anger that is wrong and again the use of plesion translated “neighbor” refers to all people whom we encounter. James commanded in the well-known verse, James 1:19, “Let every person be…slow to speak and slow to anger.” This verse and my view on anger in general needs no further explanation. We can’t “give the Devil a foothold”(Eph. 4:27) through our quick desire to disassociate ourselves with the shooter through anger and contempt. Lastly, to those justifying their anger by claiming that even God gets angry, I say tread softly. When you begin comparing yourself in any way with God I fear you are in dangerous territory. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord,” (Isaiah 55:8).

Furthermore, the speech condemning this young man brought about by anger is suspect as well. Last year, I began investigating what the Word has to say about our words and I didn’t want to speak for the next few weeks. Jesus said, “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person,” (Matt. 15:11). Also Matthew 12:36 says, “…every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof on the day of judgement.” To back track, James told his readers to “be slow to speak.” The third chapter of James’ epistle is nearly entirely devoted to wisdom in our speech. I recommend you all read it in its entirety. I will merely quote a few verses. Verse 6 claims, “The tongue is a fire…setting fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by Hell.” Verse 8 says that no man can tame the tongue and that it is a restless evil. Mostly important in this context is verse 10 which exhorts, “From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” Clearly we should be much more careful with our speech. Especially when it is contemptuously condemning others. Instead, let’s lift up the effected families(including the shooters’) and surrounding community in prayer with our speech. In doing so we are far more glorifying to the Lord and our light shines brighter as we love, grieve, and pray with and for others.

On that same line of thought I want to briefly mention the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount about judgement, retaliation, and forgiveness. As laypeople it is not for us to judge the gunman at all. Matthew 7:1 tells not to judge or we will be judged. Furthermore, verse 2 says that we will be judged with the same measure with which we judged. This means that if we judge that he deserves to die then we will receive that same measure for our own sins. Woah. He takes it even further to say that when people curse, spitefully use, and persecute us we should love them! (Matt. 5:44) Jesus says that we should not retaliate even when violence is used against us, but rather we should bless them in this(Matt. 5:39). Finally, we have been called to the high road of forgiveness! We are called to forgiveness on many occasions such as Matt. 5:23-24, 6:14-15, Luke 17:3-4, Eph. 4:32, and Col. 3:13. I will not go into these verses here though I pray you will look them up yourself. To those that say you can only forgive so many times, I somewhat agree. Jesus was clear on how many times we should forgive when asked by Peter. Peter suggested seven times being adequate, but Jesus said “seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:21-22). While I am sure wasn’t meant to be understood as a law, it is certain that He means we should be abundantly forgiving. Even in situations such as the tragedy in Connecticut. I do want to add that I am not suggesting people who do such things should just go free. I think that the laws of man in respective country’s and the judicial systems should be left to do their jobs. When I comment on forgiveness, I am speaking of personal responses within our own respective walks with the Lord. I fully believe in letting the courts carry out the laws of the land, but I will never wish harm on or rejoice in the death of any person regardless of their crime. I pray they would find the abundant life of Jesus and be led to repentance.

This most recent tragedy is reminiscent of a school shooting in the Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The school was an Amish school called West Nickel Mines School if you wish to know more. A man went in and killed many children wounding several others, before taking his own life. I will never forget the response of the Amish community that had just lost 5 children and neither will many others that heard about it. The community immediately requested that people not hate the shooter. They expressed forgiveness for his actions to the family he left behind as well as praying for them. the community went as far as to set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. Many attended his funeral and the family was even invited to the funeral of a few of the victims. What a light in this dark world! I believe that we glorify and point to Jesus more in the “unusual forgiveness” than in the all to common contempt and hatred. In fact, my opinion is that we don’t represent Him at all in our contempt of even the most vile individuals. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician…I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).” Amen.

My final thought is in reference to a question I have been posed on more than one occasion over the years. If it would have been possible to know he was going to commit the gruesome act and we killed him, wouldn’t the killing be justified? I am not going to get into this very far because I am admittedly naive and unresolved in some of my thoughts on this subject. It a most troubling conundrum. I speak with a heavy heart and like most people I don’t want to see anyone lose their life. If faced with a kill or be killed situation I would most certainly allow myself to be struck down for two reasons. First, if I kill anyone especially in defense of my own life, I am saying that my life is more important or valuable than the other person, and I do not believe this to be true of anyone in comparison with anyone else. Secondly, I am secure in my belief and certain of my salvation, whereas someone trying to kill me clearly isn’t. How could I ever justify taking the life of someone who doesn’t know the Lord. I would essentially be condemning them to Hell. While I think on this often, up to this time I can find no justifiable reason to defend myself in a kill or be killed situation.

Now, once you add in others this becomes an infinitely more difficult question for me. Is killing one to save the lives of the many that one person would have killed justifiable? Very simply, I have to say no. Again, in my thoughts on this subject until now, I cannot see how any situation in which someone who doesn’t know the Lord should be killed. Upon studies of hell I would never wish or knowingly send someone their. I am aware that I am not answering this in a holistic manner and it is because there are numerous situations where I am uncertain of what I would do in reality. There are some things we must simply pray we never encounter and that if we do, the Lord would guide us in His way. As for things past, asking what if’s is unhelpful and even harmful in some ways. I think that we should simply trust the Lord that He can use even what was meant for evil, for good (Gen. 50:20). Finally, brothers and sisters, let us allow our lights shine brightly and let us rely on His Word to respond appropriately in all things. I truly hope that if you read this in its entirety, you realize I am simply adding to the commentary. Please do not find offense in my words. I find this tragedy appalling the same as any other. Lord let us be pleasing to you. Amen.