Saturday, July 21, 2012

No Good Ol’ Days - No Easy Answers - Perspective in Times of Tragedy

“The Good Ol’ Days”. The days of innocence and care free living. Days when the grass was greener, the air was cleaner; doors remained unlocked all day every day and neighbors traded recipes, watched one another’s children and sealed every deal with a handshake. Times were simpler then and life was easy – or was it?
As we try to comprehend the horror of Aurora, it is easy to paint an idealistic picture of the past as we face the challenges and difficulties of the present. It is also extremely tempting to oversimplify the occurrence in our search for meaning and understanding by politicizing the situation, vilifying certain groups or blaming any sociological issue with which we disagree as the cause of the tragedy.
The base line truth that haunts us - but the truth from which we consistently attempt to flee - is that humanity is ill and in need of a deep and cleansing healing. It is a condition that has existed since The Fall. People everywhere are afflicted by the spiritual plague called sin that has manifested itself endlessly over the course of history in acts great and small. Sometimes the damage escapes easy notice but has deep emotional impact, and at other times it hits with powerful physical destruction that causes immediate grief and a search for meaning. In whatever measure the affliction is levied, humanity’s illness wreaks havoc and leaves in its wake a path of devastation and brokenness.
As we try to process what occurred in Aurora on July 20, 2012 we must not ignore this consistent lesson of history and core truth of the Bible – ALL have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. In the history of U.S. society alone, this sinful nature has shown itself in all sorts of extreme evil from the gangland violence of the “Roaring” 1920’s, to the early 20th century family feuds of Appalachia to the various forms of racial conflict that have challenged our land since the nation’s earliest days. These eras don’t even take into account the specter of crime in general or the menace of warfare that has chillingly touched every American generation.
In the course of uneventful days, it is easy to forget this fallen state of our world and of our natures. It is especially easy to stop considering the unseen potential dangers lurking in the minds of almost anyone who seems “normal” today, but who could potentially be one setback away from plunging into the deepest realms of human depravity. While there are no “easy” answers, the Scripture tells us that salvation from this fallen nature comes through the relationship God has made available to us through Christ. As people of faith in Christ, it is lived out on a day to day basis by understanding that we were not only designed to relate to God but to relate to others as well. We were built for community. A telling characteristic of the massacres of our generation is apparent in the term “lone gunman”. Many of the troubled people who have brought about the pain and suffering of our generation have been people who have somehow fallen off the radar of community and slipped into a parallel existence of loneliness and isolation that eventually led to an explosive rage that destroyed anyone who happened to come into their path.

The tragedy of Aurora reminds us that the societal challenge before us is formidable. We can respond to the challenge inadequately by longing for the “Good Ol’ Days”, by blaming others who hold different points of view for how societal problems should be addressed, or by ignoring the problems of our generation and hoping the challenges will just melt away. The most meaningful responses will be seen in those people who courageously acknowledge the ever-present dangers hiding in the shadows of the human heart. The people who will make a difference will address the dangers of the fallen world by energetically and thoughtfully engaging others with The Good News, and will demonstrate the reality of the Good News by getting involved in the messiness of the human experience. These people of valor will do the very best possible to leave none behind in the confusion and trials that come with everyday living: reaching out to the outcasts in friendship, ministering to the brokenhearted with compassion, embracing the marginalized as people of value, cherished and loved by God.
There will be no pat answers to explain every tragedy, but there will be a witness and the witness is this: In the course of the unforeseeable and perilous future that is part and parcel of the human experience, the God Who cares and has ultimately shown His care in the person of His Son, has also left a witness through the day to day ministry of fellow sojourners who willingly and sacrificially love in Jesus’ Name to all that the glory of God might shine through them in whatever circumstances they find themselves.
Why do tragic events like the Aurora Massacre happen? Short of saying, “The world is messed up,” no answer will suffice. What do we do about it? We realize that now is the time to live for God! Now is the day to reach out to others with His loving message of salvation. As Carly Simon sang in the old 70’s classic, these are the good old days; days to demonstrate the goodness of God in selfless and courageous living. For those who know the Lord, today is the day we step out in faith to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by loving and engaging others without conditions or qualification so that the world can see what we do and give God the glory. It’s not an “easy answer” and it won’t prevent all future tragedies, but it will impact lives and bring the love and grace of God to bear in an uncertain and pain-filled world.

Until Next Time…