Tuesday, April 17, 2007

All Things

As I searched the Internet yesterday for something in particular, I saw "out of the corner of my eye" a link to an article about a shooting at Virginia Tech. I made a conscious decision not to read it. I anticipated sadness, perhaps dispair and frustration. Shootings are not so rare even on campuses; and I know I will be sorely tempted to doubt God if I continually fill my mind with the horrors of "man's inhumanity to man", especially with no firmer habit of filling my mind with scripture than I currently have.

Shortly thereafter, a coworker asked if I had heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech. I learned that it was no "ordinary" shooting, but something on a much larger scale, and for that reason a much greater source of sadness and, potentially, frustration and dispair.

My mind echoed so many of the questions that are being asked. How could this happen? What could make a person want to do this? What should "the university" have done differently? Essentially, "Why?" Oddly, I could actually feel the temptation to forget about God when considering an answer. I instinctively began to think about the gunman's psychosis, campus security, university communications.

A Christian is blessed by a death deemed premature from our worldly perspective because absence from the world for a believer means the presence of God. So, perhaps what we deserve is a long life that postpones our being in the presence of God. While a Christian need not fear death, still I think we are rightly horrified by murder, whether one or many. God condemns it, it is irrevocable, and it causes pain for the living. Even for a Christian who rejoices in the glorification of a loved one who has passed away, sudden seperation causes pain. For me, it is difficult to imagine the anguish now felt by so many. And the fact that there are so many seems to make this incident more important than if there were only one.

Our horror is magnified because those killed and wounded were doing no harm. They were not engaged in some activity that might stimulate self-defensive behavior from anyone. I don't know those who were injured or killed, and I would not presume to even speculate about their respective relationships with God. But I know that I who also intend no harm to anyone don't deserve anything more pleasant or dignified than to be shot by a madman on a rampage. And, that fact is not altered by my inclusion in the body of Christ. Nevertheless, we call them innocent and, to an extent, it is absolutely true.

Floods have killed more, but a flood is not malicious. The irrational rage and violence of events like these are also intensely horrifying. If no logic can be discerned, when, where, and from whom are any of us safe? We who believe in our need of a savior do understand at least something of what sin can lead a man to do. But this still stuns me.

As difficult as it can be to reconcile an event like this with God's sovereignty, we must know God does, in fact, remain sovereign over all things. God has chosen to graciously remove the sting of death so that we rejoice in the resurrection of the dead among whom Jesus is the first. But, by grace also, our Heavenly Father leaves us in the world full of corruption and horrible sin to suffer and to sacrifice and to die a physical death so that all whom he has chosen might be saved unto life eternal and abundant.

If we become insensitive to the heart-wrenching, even debilitating grief that a heart of flesh must feel for those who are suffering, or forget or willingly compromise our conviction of God's limitless rulership, we then become less effective at glorifying God and ministering to those in pain for the sake of his name. If we hide, as was my first instinct, or seek a solution in the world, as was my second, we can be rendered useless.

I say "Why (does this happen)?" is the wrong question because the answer is "it must". The right question, I believe, is "How (can this be prevented, escaped, overcome)?" and the only answer is "Jesus!"

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Friday, April 06, 2007

Drive Time

As I drove to work on this Good Friday morning, having already spent far, far too much time in fuming and festering over wrongs done to me either by those who are condemned to eternal agony and thus, cannot be expected to know better, or by those who are bound for glory but remain as yet imperfect, I enjoyed the dearth of traffic and pondered holidays in general. Good Friday and Easter Monday are not designated holidays for IBM or ATT (my employer and customer), though July 4th is. But the ease of my commute this morning demonstrates that many employers do designate Good Friday a holiday.

This is a good thing. But having given cynicism a foothold, I raised an accusing finger against man and his depravity. What do we do with our holidays? On the 4th of July, we have picnics and watch fireworks and maybe go to the beach for the week. Do Americans typically celebrate America at all on the 4th of July? Is Good Friday just another day off like July 4th or Labor Day?

Just then I rounded a bend on the freeway to see church steeples silhouetted against the brightening blue morning sky. I imagined those steeples point to God. He is not in outer space, but our language gives us a conceptual association between 'the heavens' and Heaven.

So I am reminded that, on this day perhaps more than most days, we look to God in order to consider the magnificence and extraordinary grace of his purpose and to worship him over it.

I am reminded also that I should be looking, rather than at miserable human beings and our inevitable failures, to our Heavenly Father and his tremendous sacrifice for the successful and irrevocable redemption of our poor souls from our own failures as well as from the failures of others.