Shooters And Peace On Earth

peace-on-earthMost people will have heard that another horrific tragedy took place today with the shooting at a school in Connecticut. Such assaults are hard to understand. Who could hate that much or feel that little, to gun down primary children? Or their teachers?

The shooter apparently had connections with the school. His mother, who he killed at home, reportedly was a kindergarten teacher there, and it was her classroom he went to first. Most likely the perpetrator’s motives will remain murky, at best, but the attack was not random.

Some social activists will undoubtedly start a new campaign for more gun control, and the shooter’s video game habits will be scrutinized. Were there signs that he was on the edge? Should people have known?

The thing is, in many respects, we’re all on the edge. We’re an unloving, hate-filled bunch. James says,

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain so you fight and quarrel. (4:1-2)

He wrote those words to Christians. The point is, most people have been socialized so as to keep our murderous thoughts and impulses in check, but we are, nevertheless, that person who would take out a gun and reap revenge or express anger, just because. It’s an ugly truth, so heinous we’d rather deny it. Surely not me!–so reminiscent of the disciples asking Jesus if they might be His betrayer.

Why would they ask that question, I often thought. Because they knew their own hearts–that betrayal, even of their Messiah, lurked below the surface.

So what are we to make of a shooter killing children and the truth that in our hearts lurks that same sin nature? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow asked himself the same question when he penned a carol I mentioned last Tuesday about bells: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” He wrote these words during the US Civil War, not knowing if his son, who had sneaked away from home and enlisted, was alive or dead. Here are the last four stanzas:

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,

    And with the sound
    The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,

    And made forlorn
    The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

    “For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

“For hate is strong/And mocks the song.” How easy it would be to come to that conclusion today, with the moral fabric of society being ripped apart. Who teaches forgiveness instead of revenge, self-control instead of a lack of restraint, kindness instead of disregard, compassion instead of selfishness?

We are a society with the underpinnings knocked away. We have forgotten that God is not dead and that He does not sleep.

The peace on earth that Christmas celebrates hinges upon what we do with Jesus. He came to bring peace first between God and Man, and second between Man and his neighbor. The Church illustrates that–Jew and Gentile, master and slave, man and woman–Jesus broke down the barriers and put us together into one family. He told us to love the brethren, to love our neighbors, to love our enemies. In other words, no more shooting.

But His way is radical and can’t be achieved by social pressure or a call for tolerance or whatever else a godless society would look to as a means to quench the fire of sin in our hearts. God alone deals with sin on a permanent basis, and it is He we need not He we should blame when peace is shattered.

How important it is for Christians to let the bells peal loudly this Christmas: God is not dead and He came to bring you peace.

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