The Gunman's Gone--And So Is Our Peace
It happened in our neighborhood, just down the street and around the corner. A gunman entered a daycare and took sixty children hostage. Our friends' three grandchildren were among them. Finally, after a day and a half, it was over. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The gunman's gone now, but then, so is our peace of mind.
We're left with mixed emotions. We ask ourselves, just how should we as Christians respond to such a crisis?
First of all, we're relieved. Now that it's over all of us are greatly relieved that no one was hurt and that things are now back to normal. Now we count our blessings. We're thankful that something like this hasn't happened to us before, that our own children weren't there, and that the children who were held hostage were all released unharmed. We're thankful for policemen with guns who risk their lives protecting us. We're thankful they train themselves and are always ready for just such a crisis. We're thankful for all who helped in the crisis: counselors, teachers, school administrators, city officials and just ordinary people, family and friends and neighbors who pulled together in a time of crisis, who were there for one another, who hugged each other and cried together and comforted one another. We're thankful that we ourselves have not been overwhelmed by our problems and driven to desperate and criminal acts. Yes, now is truly a time to count our blessings.
Secondly, we were worried. While it was all going on we were, to say the least, worried. We often feel it is a sin to worry, and while it's true we ought not to worry about little things, as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, there are many things we should worry about. Maybe "worry" is not the best word, but the apostle Paul said that he had "great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart" because of his concern for the lost (Romans 9:1-3). He also wrote about the great "care" he had for all the churches (II Corinthians 11:28). I wish we today had the same kind of care for the weak and the lost that Paul did. Quite frankly, I wish more people today were worried about their soul's salvation. So, should we tell parents not to worry about their children held hostage by a gunman? Hardly. It's natural for us to worry about our loved ones, but on the other hand Christians possess a certain stability that comes from knowing that God knows and understands, and that there's a better life for all of God's children (both the big ones and the little ones) after this life.
Thirdly, we expressed our love. We were worried, and that's okay, because our worry came from our love. We love those children, and our hearts went out to their families. Our love grew as we saw the tears of anxious moms and dads and brothers and sisters and grandparents. In a way we became better people, a little more loving, compassionate, and forgiving, as we wept with others who were weeping.
Fourthly, we're confused. How could something like this happen? How could God let something like this happen? Job was confused and called on God to explain why he was suffering. God listened patiently to this godly man, but when He finally responded to Job's questions, He still left Job--and you and me--in the dark. We're just not in a position to understand all that happens, and we're certainly not in a position to judge God. However, we should understand that God does not interfere with the ability each of us has to choose between good and evil. When others choose evil the innocent often suffer.
Fifthly, we are angry. How could someone, anyone do such a thing? The very idea, taking children hostage! We tend to think of anger as a sin, but it's really not. God is described as being angry, and Jesus was angry when He cleansed the temple. Of course, it's wrong to get angry over little things, or to lose control and harm ourselves or others when we're angry. Anger is usually very destructive, so we must be very, very careful when we are angry, but the fact of the matter is, wherever there's injustice and sin, we should be angry.
Finally, we're saddened by this tragic event. We've all been very upset, torn with emotion. And beneath it all, we feel sadness. We're sad that lives were endangered and that we live in a society where such things happen. It's not the kind of sadness that destroys us, however; it motivates us. We'll work long and hard to prevent such incidents in the future. The other kind of sadness, the kind that destroys, was, ironically, the cause of this entire incident. The poet writes of those who lead lives of quiet desperation, and we wonder how many of them there are. Life didn't turn out as they had hoped, and daily they're confronted by doubt and insecurity, family problems and financial burdens. They've tried living their lives as they pleased, but their despair only deepened. Now they don't know where to turn. The problem with many people is not so much evil as it is emptiness. Their lives are more characterized by meaninglessness than maliciousness. They never really meant to harm anyone, but they often do, and usually themselves more anyone else. May God help them before something pushes them over the edge. May we ourselves reach out to them in sincerity and humility, never forgetting that "there but for the grace of God go I."