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Friday, December 14, 2012

Where was God in Connecticut?

Christmas Tragedy in Connecticut/Oregon

So did you hear about the divorce on Sesame Street?  There was a segment on the Today’s Show about it, and info on the net, and I wanted to add my two cents to the topic.  Then I heard about the tragedy at the elementary school up in Connecticut…..so Sesame Street will have to wait a day or two….but check back…..because this other event demands our attention first. 

Twice in such a short time, young men take up arms and open fire on unsuspecting people…..today, sadly, including a large number of very young children.  I would like to contribute some comments into the discussion, but if you are reading this and haven’t done so yet, please stop reading long enough to offer a prayer for those poor families caught in the crossfire of this tragedy.  Just as that first Christmas was tainted with the blood of children, the lifeblood of those 20 children has marred the Christmas season for our nation, and especially for those mourning families.  Remember the passage Matthew quotes from Jeremiah (in ESV): 
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”  --Matt 2:14 

I want to focus first and primarily on the event in Connecticut, understanding that much of the information applies to Oregon’s shooting as well (as well as Columbine, the Colorado theater, Virginia Tech….all those senseless murders).  Before I get too deep into it, I have heard a number of times in these things the statement that these shooters long for fame and their place in history.  I sometimes wonder if the attitudes would change if the names of these heartless killers were never made public…if they were always only known as “John Doe,” and the fame to go to the victims, or the heroes like Allen Fonseca, that young man in Portland Macy’s who rescued so many.  I heard some mourn the loss of young life, those children who were robbed of lives of careers, marriages and so on.  And it is true.  But may I suggest that you and I also let that fact remind us each that none of us knows the number of our days…at any moment any one of us could be called before our Maker to give account of our lives there in eternity.  Let us live in such a way that we will be ready for God, no matter when our time comes.

Well, as people have tried to make sense of all of this, we continue to hear the same rationale suggested over and again:  the easy access to deadly weapons, violence in the movies or on video games, mental illness…..there are others that will be rolled out once again over the coming days.  And, of course, often one hears about troubled or broken homes.  I especially heard a number comments about mental illness.  But I don’t hear what I believe is core to the issue, because that answer isn’t politically correct these days, and nobody wants to hear it.  But you will hear it here. 

Some years ago, famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger, founder of the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, published a little book titled, Whatever Became of Sin?  That book has become a classic that to this day raises the issue of how we classify the deeds of people in our world.  You see, without diminishing the realities of the mental illnesses so many suffer with daily, there is a truth deeper than mere mental illness.  This world is scarred by the bigger reality known as sin.  Every philosophy class I ever taught at the college level always included a section from the book dealing with the question of evil in the world.  Why?  Because no matter what you believe about God and humanity, you are forced to deal with the existence of evil.  Those who believe that people are basically good are hard pressed to explain, then, how events such as these recent shootings can occur.  While desiring to blame it on something wrong with the individual who perpetrates the deed, yet ignore the fact that they themselves also partake of a nature that expresses itself in evil ways at times.  Sometimes it is manifested in deeds such as we have just seen, but other times it appears in the form of selfishness, or pride, or indifference to the suffering of others.  In fact, I would argue that the very thing that brought about this whole blog, divorce, is also a symptom of the imperfect, broken and sinfulness of our world.  Some of us like to point to people who do things we consider worse than our own deeds to build our own egos, but we neglect to compare ourselves to the perfection of God, and thus ignore the reality that even the best of us are caught in the taint of sin.  Original sin is what many call it. 

What became of sin?  We have tried to eradicate it in our culture by renaming it.  We claim the sinful things people do are actually the result of not sinfulness, but ignorance…thus education is the solution.  And yet we ignore the fact that there are very many highly educated people whose lives are filled with the most awful of sins.  We claim it is due to disease, and try to solve the problem with medications, only to find the medications get abused and the “diseases” are used as excuses to justify ongoing bad behavior…..sin.  They announce the problem is poverty, so we begin programs to lift people out of poverty….ignoring the wealthy whose lives are as filled with aberrant behavior as any poor people anywhere.  Others would say it is because of our lack of effective laws, and try to legislate their way out of these situations….but murder has been against the law since the dawn of history, and we are no nearer its eradication than were the Roman rulers or our Founding Fathers.  Or the cause is mental illness, and so people combine their medicines with lots of talking to counselors whose discussions can bring understanding and maybe help change some habits, but has no power to cleanse the soul, forgive the wrongdoing, or change the heart out of its sinful condition.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Every one of these areas we raise are important areas and it is valid to address them.  But to think that by so doing we will change the nature of humanity is simply believing a falsehood.  We will never educate, medicate, counsel  or finance our way out of the condition of our hearts caught in the taint of sin.  Because those are not the cure, only redemption can transform a human heart, and only Christ has the power and authority to bring that redemption. 

Oh, there are those who say that there cannot be a God, because if there were, He would never allow these kind of things to happen.  But the scriptures teach that we would see this kind of things and worse more frequently, if it were not for the fact that God’s Spirit restrains the free reign of evil and Satan’s influence.  No, it is only the grace of God that keeps these events limited in number, and it is only the grace of God that has the power through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, to bring the cure that is needed to change our hearts.

It is a sad thing we experience here on earth, to see how the twisted nature of sin wreaks such havoc and evil in our lives.  But until we recognize it for what it is, and seek the power of God to change us, that evil will grow in one fashion or another.  And as we see fewer families raising their children with the moral guidance of church and scripture, and so many in our nation continue to scoff at the coming judgment of God upon our lives and deeds, we will see more and more of the awful deeds such as we saw today.

So it is with deep sadness in my heart for those suffering folks on our coasts in this time that I offer my prayers and a call to invite them to find strength and hope in God.  No matter what conclusions the psychologists and social workers and politicians and police investigators present as the cause, until all creation finally bows every knee before Jesus in heaven, there will be tears to wipe away and injustices to grieve.  In the meantime, may God’s peace and comfort be to those whose hearts are breaking from cruel bullets in our malls, theaters and schools, as well as those who have lost loved ones in embassies and on battlefields around the world this year.  You all have my deepest sympathy.

WAAYYY TOOOO LONG, so dr:  The murderous deeds this week are evidence of the evil infecting our world called sin, crying out for the healing that comes only from Christ.

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