This is my reflection on the tragic events that occurred in Connecticut last Friday. They are personal ruminations and prayers, scattered and raw. My prayer is that they'd somehow be an encouragement and a blessing to those who choose to read them.
The high school shooting in Columbine, CO. The gunman in Tucson, AZ. The Virginia Tech shootings. The Sikh temple in Wisconsin. A movie theatre shooting in Aurora, CO. The mall in Clackamas, OR last week. Now the school in Newtown, CT.
Who are these shooters?
Disgruntled and disturbed adolescent men.
Disgruntled, in that they chose violence and hatred over love and compassion. Disturbed, in that many likely suffered from emotional and mental illness, incapable of self-control or empathy. Adolescent, not in a chronological sense--though most were under the age of 30--but in their juvenile emotional and moral maturation.
There are plenty of other conversations surrounding this tragedy--gun control, mental illness, the sensationalism of the media, etc. Those are all necessary and beneficial conversations to have, as long as we also grieve the painful loss of life and practice both discernment and charity in our conversational tone. But where I keep coming back in my mind is the hope found in Jesus.
I have to believe, in the midst of the chaos and pain and suffering and desolation that this world so often dishes out to the unsuspecting and innocent, that there is hope.
Real hope. Not the empty shells of Facebook-status "everything will be just fine" hope. Not the politically-charged-demand-for-new-legislation hope. Not the Internet meme hope. Not even the Christian-jargon-laden-pat-answer-about-tragedy hope.
The God-entered-our-world-and-offers-us-uncondional-love-and-eternal-life-through-His-death-and-resurrection hope.
We live in tension, because the kingdom of God can be experienced now, but there is still the anticipation for its full arrival. God is with us as Emmanuel, but we still are awaiting the fullness of heaven to break into our midst. While we wait, sin continues to run rampant and we're left in its wake, stunned at the brokenness. Frustrated and angry young boys grow up to become frustrated and angry young men, casualties of sin.
What if all the angry young men had a wise and loving mentor walk alongside them? What if the church offered caliber and compassionate ways for helping any person with mental illness, ways that didn't relegate them to social pariahs? What if we truly grieved with those who grieved, allowing that grief to be expressed however it needed to come out, and choosing to remember and love when everyone else has forgotten?
Here are the significant reasons why the call to love our neighbor--and particularly, to love and mentor and disciple the young men and women around us--truly matters:
To see the potential when no one else doesIn his speech to the Newtown community, President Obama spoke these words:
To embrace the misfits and outcasts
To offer guidance and wisdom to those without direction or purpose
To speak words of grace and truth to those who have only heard condemnation or lies
To be an advocate and mentor to a person who has had neither
To offer healing and support for deep wounds, pointing people to the proper counsel and care they might not pursue themselves
To share the good news--that the King of the universe loves us unconditionally, and He showed up in our world to share that love.
That this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation. And in that way we come realize that we bear responsibility for every child because we're counting on everybody else to help look after ours. That we're all parents. That they're all our children.
This is our first task, caring for our children. Our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right.In the wake of such pain and loss, the followers of Jesus can be sources of comfort and hope for the young men and women all around us who need a shoulder to cry on and someone to truly see them for who they are and who they could become.
I grieve, because Jesus wept.
I hope, because Jesus rose from the dead.
I love and mentor young men and women, because Jesus first loved me.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)