The world stood a little stiller, and my breath was cut a little shorter as I woke up this morning to the terrible news coming out of Aurora, Colorado—that a 24-year-old gunman barged into a crowded Denver-area theater during a midnight premiere of the Batman movie, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others in one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history.
“Here we go again,” I found myself saying as images of Oklahoma City, Columbine, the Amish School House in Pennsylvania, and Virginia Tech came racing back. “Here we go again,” as so many people in Colorado and beyond are faced with indescribable loss and pain.
I suspect it will take a long time, not only for those who have been directly affected by this tragedy, but for all of us who sit on the peripheral of such an event, to come to terms with what has happened. As I think about sitting my with my 14-year-old daughter at a matinee just the other day for a mother-daughter outing or sending her off to high school in the fall, my instinct is to hold her a little closer, to hole up a little deeper, and to avoid the world a little more. Yet, we know that this is not possible, not if we are to live our lives to the fullness that God intends for each of us. And so, we try and make sense of what has happened, of all the things that have happened in the past, and all the things that will happen yet in the future.
As people of faith, we know that Scripture teaches us nothing if it does not teach us a frank and honest outlook on the good and the bad of life, that life is full of blessings, and that life is full of challenges. But scripture does not leave us to fend for ourselves.
The Apostle Paul expressed this in the beloved 8th chapter of Romans when he talked about nothing being able to separate us from the love of God, no matter what. Or as one translation so powerfully puts it…that nothing – nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable – absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love.
In the midst of such a tragedy, we see that when bad things happen, good things begin to happen as well. We see it in so many ways: people sharing and risking their own lives for the sake of others, individuals coming to the aid of one another, bereaving families praying for the ones who survived. I suspect that stories of heroism, compassion, and incredible sacrifice will yet emerge. They always do.
A final thing we see through the lens of this tragedy is that God’s realm is far from complete on this earth, much less in this nation. I don’t think we can talk about this tragic event without also talking about the really complicated and divisive issues of gun control, health care, and the other social issues that surround the behavior of a young man who has such utter disregard for the sacredness of human life.
Why are we simply just so afraid of saying “enough?” Enough of the slaughter that takes place in schools, homes, workplaces, and on the streets of our communities because someone can go into a gun store and in twenty minutes leave with a handgun and a serious round of ammunition. As I heard someone once say, “When Jesus said, ‘blessed are the peacemakers,’ I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean as long as we can get guns quickly, indiscriminately, and on a whim.”
And when are we going to say enough to the lack of accessible and quality healthcare not only for the physically ill but for the emotionally and mentally ill as well?
As Christians, we will be called throughout our lives to rise to the standards set for us by Jesus Christ, who calls us to turn our society right-side up by bringing forth justice, by welcoming strangers in our midst, by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, by loving the unlovable, and by sharing all that we have and all that we are, so that life is safe, equitable, and just for all God’s children.