The hearts of a nation are broken today as we seek to figure out how to respond to the terrible tragedy in Newtown, CT in which 20 children and 6 adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The lives of many parents, family and teachers have been forever altered by this unspeakably evil event. A strange mixture of grief and anger wells up in our soul as we try to make sense out of this senseless and horrible massacre.
We grieve because we cannot imagine the sorrow and pain that these families must now deal with. We grieve because we know that our own children – though far removed from Newtown – must also cope with the fear and anxiety that this event naturally provoke. And we grieve because, deep down, events like this display all too clearly that something is terribly wrong in our world. Evil is not confined to stories or history or even our prisons and jails. Evil walks openly in our streets, enters uninvited into our homes, crashes into our schools. We cannot escape it.
But we are also angry. We desperately want someone or something to blame. Some will point to the guns. Others may blame the schools. There will be fingers pointed at failed families or physicians or others who should have seen this coming and stopped it. Some will be angry with God. And the anger is only intensified when we consider that the objects of this horrendous killing were the most innocent and cherished members of our society – our children.
But what is the right response? How should we as a Nation answer this problem that presents itself to every family in our land? Deep down we know that mourning and anger is not enough. Tears will flow, but they cannot wash away the stain this event has left upon our hearts and minds. We want more than emotion – we want action. Something must be done.
But that brings us to the very heart of the issue. What, ultimately, is the cause of this horror that happened in Newtown? We know that no mere bandage will cure this evil disease that erupts in madness and murder like this.
As I wrestle with this myself – as a parent and as a Christian – it drives me to my knees. Prayer, it seems to me, is my only resort because I believe we cannot legislate our way out of our present situation. Prayer is the action I find myself driven to engage in because the problem is not ultimately social – but moral. The changes our culture needs cannot be accomplished by laws, but will only be accomplished by love. And love – true love – must come from God. In my opinion we get to the heart of this issue when – and only when - we admit we have failed to love God and failed to love one another.
I. We have failed to love God. We have, as a society, turned our hearts to fully embrace the love of this world rather than the love of God. We love money, we love things and we love ourselves. But we have abandoned the most fundamental reason for our existence – to love God and please Him. Where do we see the love of God among us any longer? We have forbidden Him from our schools. We have sought to erase the memory of God from our public institutions. Church attendance has fallen. And at the same time we refuse to speak out against evils such as abortion, pornography, materialism, homosexuality and the like. We do not love God. The first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus Christ, is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.” But we turn from God – and ultimately thereby turn from any absolute moral standards for families and society. We get caught up in the politics of Left and Right. We forget there is an Up and Down. We desperately grope for an answer to this tragedy. The answer, however, is ultimately a question: Do you love God?
Reader – do you love God? Parents – are we telling our children to love God? To what degree have you and I promoted the love of God in our culture? Do we put Him first in our life? Do we want to please Him – reading His Word, attending Church, gathering for worship? “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments (1 John 5:3).” I am not just asking this question of others. I must ask it of myself as well.
II. And we have failed to love one another. Let’s be honest. Stop all of the rhetoric and debate for a moment. We are hardly a society that is truly committed to real love toward each other. Anger, distrust, drunkenness, dishonesty, adultery, lying, murder, revenge, theft, broken relationships and bitterness abound. These, and many more similar sins, are all evidences that we really do not love each other at all. Love, true love, “does no harm to his neighbor (Romans 13:10).” Shootings and murder are amongst the most tangible evidences of our loveless culture. But our lack of love to our fellow man is all around us. True love reaches out to restore broken relationships; true love reaches out to strangers, true love even sacrifices for the good of our enemy. That is the kind of love we need. Jesus said in John 15:2 "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."
Reader – do you truly love your neighbor, your family, your friends, your enemies? If not, maybe the answers we seek to the Newtown tragedy can be found by looking in the mirror first. Maybe what’s wrong with us is not our lack law, but our lack of love. Adam Lanza committed a horrific act of evil and violence on Friday. But what is very difficult for us to face is this – the very same lack of love for others resides in our hearts too. Yes, different in its expression for sure; but not different in its very nature and potential. There is, in Newtown, a warning for us all.
III. Finally, I wish to say to any who may read this post that the only real answer to what has happened among us is the love found in the person of Jesus Christ. His life was not taken from Him. He laid down His life because He loved us. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God …" (Ephesians 5:1-2) The sin and evil of this world, and the sin and evil in our own hearts, has ultimately been answered by God in the death of His Son. At the cross Jesus offered Himself a substitute for us. I am sure, could we do so, any parent would gladly trade places with one of these precious children who died yesterday. Paul supposes such a circumstance in Romans 5 saying that “perhaps, for a good man [or child], someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
Reader – what is your response to God’s offer of love in Jesus Christ? The change, you see, that we need is really a change of our hearts. And that is precisely what is offered. That is what Christmas is really all about – God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. “Why” exactly this event occurred may never be answered. How we respond, however, makes all the difference in the world. The heart of the problem - my dear friends - is the problem of our hearts.
My heart still breaks for the families of those affected by this tragedy. Words are never sufficient. Tears are not enough. Nothing short of changed hearts and lives will ever bring an end to what we have witnessed. We need grace. And God offers grace. And this grace is offered to you. Beloved – Let us love one another.