Two stories have gotten stuck in my head this week. The first is the horrific shooting that happened in Aurora, Colorado, when an obviously troubled young man opened fire on a theater full of moviegoers. The second is the NCAA sanctions against Penn State in response to the Freeh report, which uncovered a massive cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of young children.
In the first case, twelve people died, and fifty were injured. In the second, fifty-two children’s lives were irrevocably damaged. Both are tragedies, and both represent two of our greatest fears as a society–that our children are not safe, and that violence can happen at any moment.
In the face of tragedies like these, our gut reaction often tells us that what we need to do is protect ourselves–find a hole somewhere, grab a gun, wrap your arms around your kids, and keep the evil of this world at bay. But that never works in the end, does it? If we hole ourselves up, all we get is a groundhog-view perspective of the world–the world is a scary place, and I’m not gonna have anything to do with it.
Well, of course the world is a scary place–it always has been! Sure, we’ve designed new and inventive ways to be cruel to one another, but we’ve always had to contend with a world that seems mean, arbitrary, and violent. A cursory glance at history will prove to you that the world has ever been thus, and anyone with any amount of intelligence would tell you that it will probably continue this way for quite some time.
That’s why Jesus, the ultimate Victim of the violence and arbitrary nature of the world, came in the first place. Christ died at the hands of angry, violent, sinful, very human beings. He died to show us the folly of our quest for power through violent means. He rose again to show us that there is a different way–God’s way. Christ calls us to love God and love our neighbors–to him, all the law and the prophets hang on these two commands. But he has already won the victory over evil, sin, and death. Christ has managed to overcome violence through the final act of nonviolent resistance–his very resurrection from the dead, and the promise of eternal life to those who love him.
I don’t want to seem like I’m negating the tragic nature of either Aurora or Penn State, but what I am saying is that these tragedies are reminders to us that our hope doesn’t rest with guns and ammunition, or in powerful and long-standing institutions. Our hope is in God, through Christ Jesus the Lord, who overcame evil so that we might face the world unafraid. The world is a scary place, but God is bigger than all our fears.