If the words below sound familiar, I wrote them just a few months ago following the tragic shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado. I have also written very similar words over the years, on the occasion of such horrendous shootings at Columbine, and at the Amish School House in Pennsylvania, and at Virginia Tech. “Here we go again,” I find myself saying, but this time there is even a deeper, more horrifying, somber feel to these words. Perhaps it is the time of the year, this season of joy; perhaps it is because I am a mother and I cannot bear the thought of what these parents who have lost a child are enduring; but I suspect it is because there are twenty little children dead, lives filled with such potential, possibility, and hope, gone to the world forever.
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 periphery of such an event, to come to terms with what has happened. As I think about sending my 14-year-old daughter off to school each day, 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…<em>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. </em>
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 “<strong>enough?</strong>” 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. Why does anyone need an automatic rifle lying around their home? 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?
In this season of preparation and celebration of the Prince of Peace, perhaps our greatest gift to one another and to our nation is to advocate and to work for gun regulations and laws. As the question goes, “if not now, when?” And, “if not us, who?” For 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 advocating for peace, and by sharing all that we have and all that we are, so that life is safe, equitable, and secure for all God’s children.