There has been a lot happening in our nation as of late, too. As I write this, I am processing the news that a deranged gunman in small town like ours in Texas shot up an elementary school yesterday, leaving over 20 dead. Most of his victims were children. In the past few weeks, there has also been a mass shooting at a grocery store and a church. Murderous violence has claimed the lives of Americans of all ages and races recently; from children learning at school, grandparents shopping for food, to Christians praying in church. This morning my son, in a very matter of fact tone, said, “People love to kill other people in America these days.” The image of our nation that we have allowed to form in the minds of our youngsters is one of violence and rage, not peace and prosperity. Lest you think he has this image just because we watch the news in our house, I quickly explained that the incidents he was hearing about are the reason he had to go into lockdown on his very first day of public school as a kindergartener here in Ronan. It is difficult to be raising up the next generation to face unprecedented levels of violence and domestic terrorism.
In many ways, though, this is nothing new. Though we like to think of our world as modern and enlightened, the callousness people show toward one another and the evil we endure together is as ancient as our stories of creation. In fact, the older I get, the more I believe in sin – sin that is pervasive, long lasting, often difficult to acknowledge, but even harder to endure. Whether it be the sins of addiction that orphan children in their own homes, the sins of members of one race trying to terrorize those of another through violence, the sins of drunk drivers who claim innocent lives on highway 93, the sins of greed that displace locals, drive up prices, and collude against farmers and ranchers, or the sin of mass murder, the evils of the world swell up around us constantly and persistently, no matter how enlightened and exceptional we might envision our world to be.
Still, I am drawn to recall the words of psalm 23 that my church had me memorize when I was roughly my son’s age – though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (Psalm 23:4). Though our neighbors rage against us, God does not. God binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted, comforts those suffer evil, and guides those who journey beneath the shadow of death. It is for such times as these that we believe in a future that God provides – one which is infinitely better than the present we are providing for ourselves and for our children. It is for such times as this that we place our trust in Christ’s resurrection which confounds the deaths planned by spirits of malice or the cowardice of indifference. It is for such a time as this as we exhort one another to love our neighbors as ourselves and teach our children the way of peace, so that the way of the cross might lead us beyond such godless evils.