Friday, July 20th, one week after a rather uneventful Friday the 13th, America woke up to another national nightmare as reports flooded out of Aurora, Colorado of another horrific scene of carnage at the hands of a masked gunman dressed in black body armor determined to kill and maim as many innocent people as possible. On a festive night when the moviegoers arrived early to be the first to see the new Batman thriller, “The Dark Knight Rises” they found themselves caught up in the terrifying action without a superhero to come to their rescue. In a manner of minutes twelve people were murdered in cold-blood, and at least 38 escaped with their lives but wounded, while everyone in the movie complex found their lives radically changed forever.
In a strange twist of fate the masked gunman surrendered to the police just outside the theater and was taken immediately into custody. Soon his picture filled the national air waves. Robert Holmes’ smiling face now haunts us. How could such a normal honor-roll student go on such a senseless rampage? What was he thinking? Or better yet why was he not thinking?
In the entertainment industry the villains fit the role. Their appearance reflects the evil at their fingertips. Yet in real life our villains look like our next door neighbors from the good part of town. It is not the tattooed up kid from the hood with chains and piercings, it is the kid in college more known for his books than his threats that commit unthinkable acts of violence.
When evil rears its ugly head, people often wonder where was God? Why did He not intervene? In fairness to God, He created this planet but He left us in charge of its management, and from the beginning of time we have made a bloody mess of it. Murder and bloodshed emerged from Adam and Eve’s first two descendents, and sadly it still rears its hideous face today. Instead of blaming God, we need to take a good long look in the mirror–a good long look around us.
We are breeding a culture of violence and raising a generation of young men hooked on graphic video games, porn, and violent movies. Our news outlets hammer us with images and reports of the violence around the world. We have spent the last ten year waging war while trying to act as if nothing is really going on. For those of us who live in El Paso, we know all too well the dark side of war in the brokenness of our returning soldiers. As one brigade commander asked me, “Please pray for the souls of my soldiers, I will bring the vast majority of my soldiers home, but I fear I will lose their souls!”
Having spend the last two years living just across the river from the most violent city in the world, I know all too well the dark realities that dwell deep in the hearts of people. Without doubt the most dangerous and vicious animal on planet earth is the human being. The prophet Jeremiah, who lived in a similar violent age, wrote:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)
I would strongly encourage you to read the words and look at the actions of Jesus as one who is out to confront and change a violent world. The Sermon on the Mount sounds a great deal less sentimental and fictional when you see it through the shadows of the dark night in Aurora.
Jesus knew all too well that the human race looms as the problem, but He also knows that people of faith and courage shine as the only hope–the light of the world. Now is not the time for the faithful to hide behind our stained windows and simply pray for the victims. It is time for the faithful to be strong and courageous in pointing people to the hope found only in Jesus Christ and His call to arms of a different kind.
Our nation has lost its way. Our young men need to be challenged to put down the game controllers, turn off their computers and engage the world and make a difference for good. This generation needs a reason to live–and something to live for.
Listen to the revolutionary words of Jesus anew today in the face of evil:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48)You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:8-48 ESV)
I know His words sound a bit out of step with conventional wisdom and our commitment to force as the rule of law, but just look around is our world getting better? Maybe it is time for us who claim to follow Jesus to put our faith into action and simply live out his manifesto in our lives in our day. Who knows we just might change the world for good this time!