Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Is There Hope for Violent America?

I walked my 4 year old son, Luke to his preschool class on Monday.  I was overcome with emotion while doing this simple task, as it was his first day back to school after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.  There was a suffocating tension in the air.  Luke’s teachers were more loving than ever, trying their best to keep it together.  If the shooting could happen in small town America, it could happen anywhere.  I cannot imagine what the families of those 20 precious children and 6 heroic adults are experiencing right now.

At church on Sunday, we laid hands in prayer on our children and the adults that work in our school system.  We thanked God for them, and asked God to protect them.  As a father and pastor, I spoke about my grief and anger.  In our culture, we no longer can go to a movie, shop at the mall, make a wrong turn in traffic, or even drop off our kids at school without worrying that some lunatic is going to start shooting. 

Hollywood makes billions of dollars from our demand for violent movies and television shows.  We spend millions more on video games that allow us to blow people’s heads off in the virtual world, complete with accurate forensic blood splatter.  We cheer when players from our favorite football team knock the opposition out of the game.   We love our guns and our rights to own, carry, and use them. 
Disclaimer: I watch Batman, James Bond, and Alien movies. I smash computerized pigs by launching Angry Birds from a slingshot on my iPad. I cheer for the Carolina Panthers in the National Football League. I bought my son plastic guns and holsters because he wants to be a cowboy. I take great pleasure in shooting my best friends with paint balls. I own a shotgun, rifle, and handgun. I shoot them at inanimate targets. Is all of this good stuff? Probably not. Is all of it evil? Probably not. My point is that I am not immune. I am a participant in a culture of violence.

When Jesus was born 2000 or so years ago, King Herod slaughtered all the boys age 2 and under in the city of Bethlehem and its vicinity.  Roman citizens cheered as human gladiators fought one another to the death in what amounted to the original Hunger Games.  It seems that we humans like our violence no matter when we live in history. 
Is there hope for us? 

I trust that our government and law enforcement agencies will do all that they can to protect us.  Sadly, it will not be enough.  The issue goes well beyond them.    

We humans are broken.  We live in a broken world.  We have broken relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with God.   It was not meant to be this way.  God created a paradise for us.  God created us in God’s image.  God has great plans for our lives.  God also created us with free will.  We chose, and continue to choose, to go our own way and to do our own thing.  We have not lived into God’s plans, and have brought brokenness into the world.  We do harm and violence.  In our brokenness, we even let evil in and set it loose on the world. 

God wants better for us.  That is why God sent Jesus into the world at Christmas, to be Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”  As an adult, Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself in a most violent death on a cross.  God then raised Jesus from the dead.  This was God’s plan to win us back.  Our brokenness can be healed.  Our guilt and shame can be replaced with love, joy, and peace.  We can live into God’s great plans for our lives and embrace the image of God in which we have been created.  We can claim God’s victory and power over evil.  We can experience God’s kingdom in this life, and encounter it fully in the next.

Make no mistake, the massacre in Connecticut was evil.  It was NOT God’s plan.  We live in a culture of violence.  It is not God’s plan.  As the nation continues to grieve, we are still left with the haunting question: is there hope?  My answer is yes.  Our one and only hope is Jesus, the Prince of Peace for a broken, violent world.

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