I woke up this morning to the awful news–over 50 dead, over 400 wounded. An outdoor country music concert was targeted by a lone shooter, a 64-year-old man that at this time, fits no demographic you would imagine for a mass murderer.
Before 9AM, the national media (I was watching NBC) is taking full advantage of the tragedy to communicate their message of government control, limited weapons, and national shame upon anyone who believes otherwise. I don’t begrudge them this–our worldviews, our hearts, our values pour out unmoderated in the face of disaster.
Let’s take a moment to fuel our faith–not in government or guns or incredibly brave and effective first responders–but in God’s Word to show us how Bible-believers approach an event like this.
First, beware the sudden, civil/national religion that arises during this time. Do not identify it with biblical Christianity. It is nothing like Christianity. It is as C.S. Lewis describes:
“We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.”― C.S. Lewis
The deepest spiritual needs of our neighbor are not addressed by a combination of crisis and emotional response that may have religious language. They are met by the power of God working through the gospel as proclaimed faithfully by ministers from true churches. Their needs are met by the power of God working through believers and their families living out that true faith by good works towards their neighbors and the location God has put them in through vocation and circumstance.
Second, don’t imagine that you know The Answer, or that by obsessively watching the news coverage, you are learning the answer. John Barber sensed this as he immediately quoted this Old Testament passage on Facebook today:
“O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (2 Chron. 20:12).
Great trial and tragedy are not explicable. Read Job and see that a wise, godly man had no real idea what was going on as he faced trials that look small compared to this one. What matters is God’s perspective on these events, and do we imagine that Tom Brokaw or Rush Limbaugh can give that to us?
We may never know “why?” as we search the ruins of that hotel room where an evil man poured out his evil heart. Stop searching the headlines and Internet for that which is unknown and which, if were discovered, will simply be used as a means for winning political and social power by one side or the other.
As Keith Mathison, professor at Reformation Bible College, said on Facebook:
I also hate that right now there are conservatives who are just really hoping this guy will turn out to be an Antifa leftist or a Muslim, so they can say “We told you so!” and that there are liberals just really hoping he will turn out to be some right winger in the NRA, so they can say “We told you so!” And then there are the others who are already planning to fill their tin-foil hat websites with claims that the shooter wasn’t real and this was staged by some super-secret covert organization wanting to distract us from something else.
It just seems that the incessant politicizing of these kinds things has made us a callous people with no compassion for the pain of real human beings suffering real pain.
Moms and Dads lost children last night. Children lost parents. Friends lost friends.
This is what we lose when we try and find “The Answer.” We lose our ability to weep over human loss, and in its place, we cheer for our side when the evidence condemns the other side.
Finally, step away from the TV and Internet coverage of this. If you become immersed in every drop of information and every moment of the investigation, you cannot serve your family or your neighbor. Rubbernecking at the scene of an accident causes great problems for other drivers–how does it impact your family with CNN and Foxnews running this story all day long in your home? How does it impact the truly important things in your life when you let the news cycle control your moments and days? Christ’s love is what motivates us and Christ’s mission is our mission–and watching TV all day isn’t helping.
Information may be the sacrament of the Information Age, but we serve the Ageless One. We live in light of eternity, and find no true joy in chasing the moving target of media.
Jesus died so that our focus would not be on death and tragedy, yet we would be able to step into the great world of pain and minister to our families and our neighbor with the good news that he conquered death. As one of my favorite liberals, Frederick Buechner, said:
“IN THE YEAR THAT King Uzziah died, or in the year that John F. Kennedy died, or in the year that somebody you loved died, you go into the temple if that is your taste, or you hide your face in the little padded temple of your hands, and a voice says, “Whom shall I send into the pain of a world where people die?” and if you are not careful, you may find yourself answering, “Send me.” You may hear the voice say, “Go.” Just go.”
Just go, into a world who is weighed down with immeasurable guilt, pride and pain, and proclaim the free grace of God found flowing forth from the pierced hands and feet of Jesus Christ. Just go, from your phone apps and media. And see God’s people respond with tears, but this time, tears of joy.