Our world is becoming an increasingly scary place in which to live.
In 1999, the world was shocked and grieved when two students gunned down thirteen of their peers in Columbine, Colorado; nobody would have thought then that the phrase “another mass shooting” would, over the next 19 years, become part of our lexicon. By now, though, we have a routine: hear about a shooting, grieve briefly, then immediately release meme after meme pithily laying blame on the idiots who could have prevented it.
Among all the memes I’ve seen floating around online on the heels of the Florida shooting, one grabbed my attention and grieved me tremendously. Perhaps you’ve seen it:
At best, persuasive memes entertain but do little (if anything) to promote civil conversation. At worst, they promote strife and cause great harm. This one, I believe, can do nothing but harm.
First: God has made it abundantly clear that we are not to add to His Word. Although this is only a T-shirt and not a Bible, the designer obviously felt qualified to presume what God would say if questioned by this “concerned student” and to share this message with the world. Even if we could assume that this is truly what God would say if He chose to speak audibly, we would still be in the wrong by spreading it as confidently as if it were straight from His Word.
Second: Would God truly respond in this way if questioned? Would He want US to do so? Consider 1 Peter 3:15: “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
People are looking at the evil in the world and wondering: Why does anybody have hope? How can God allow such suffering? These are huge questions, huger than I can tackle in today’s blog post, but they are worthy of more than just a sarcastic, dismissive retort. They merit gentleness, respect, and the compassion that God feels when He sees the brokenness of the world — a world He loved so much that He sent His own Son to save it.
Third, and last for today: What kind of theology are we perpetrating if we suggest that these hundreds of deaths have occurred because God abandons those who abandon Him? As a Christian, could I look in the eyes of a parent whose child was just tragically torn away and say, “Well, if prayer were still allowed in schools, your kid would still be alive”? A thousand times, no! The school system may squelch religion, but a classroom consists of individual souls, and God sees and knows intimately each and every one.
Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear — and church history bears it out — that those who follow Christ are not immune to suffering. We need only look back at the church shooting in Texas, or the one-room schoolhouse shooting in Lancaster County, to see that evil befalls those who follow Jesus as well as those who want nothing to do with Him.
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Fellow Christ-followers, we have so much more to offer the world than sarcasm, curtness, and victim-blaming. If Jesus is the only one who can truly heal our broken world, one soul at a time — and we know He is! — then we have a sacred responsibility. Let us look at those who hurt through His eyes…and gently show them how much He loves them.