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Where is the light?

December 18, 2012

The faces of the children killed in Newtown haunt me. One little face in particular reminds me of my little Karis. I can’t look at these pictures without tears. My heart hurts, and yet I still can’t even fathom the grief these families are feeling.

I think we all ask how such a thing could happen. We can’t fathom killing another human being, much less viciously taking the life of a sweet little child. So we try to come up with reasons and explanations. And it’s all too easy to instantly share our feelings and explanations. We rarely think about what we are saying or posting or sharing. And we forget those words might be painful or offensive or even completely inaccurate.

I find myself very disturbed by some of the words my Christian friends have posted. I think we sometimes do a really good job of turning people away from our faith. We like to put ourselves in the place of God and pronounce judgment. We are sometimes so hypocritical. I am hypocritical. I hate that about myself, but sometimes I am confronted with the truth and it hurts.

In an effort to understand this horrible event, and to try to make sense of it, Christians have said, “This is what happens when we kick God out of the schools.” Or “Violence happens in schools because God is not allowed.”

Surely we don’t really believe the answer is this simple! How is this an accurate reflection of the Bible and the God of the Bible? How can the God we believe to be omnipresent be kicked out?

This is the season when we celebrate the birth of Christ. But did the world invite Him or even want Him? Wasn’t He born in a time of great darkness? His parents had to flee with Him to Egypt because Herod wanted Him killed! Yet, He still came. He was there, in the midst of an empire that didn’t want Him. He came to His own. And even His own didn’t receive Him. He was despised and rejected. We hid our faces from Him. But He still came.

Christ came for people who needed a Savior! He came for a world that needed hope.

And yet, instead of sharing that hope, we Christians almost seem to rub salt into a wound. Instead of reaching out with compassion, we find the need to pontificate. Why?

Have we forgotten that Christ most frequently condemned the outwardly religious? Some of His harshest criticism was toward religious leaders. Religious leaders who were like tombs. Full of death and decay.

Maybe the problem is with us. Maybe it is Christians who have kicked Christ out of our own lives. Oh, we pray. Well, maybe we pray over our food, or when we want something from God. We go to church and feel good about ourselves. And we find it easy to shake our finger and say, “See, that’s what happens when you kick God out.”  But maybe they have actually rejected the poor example of Christ that they see in us. Maybe there’s nothing to our Christianity that is worth desiring.

“And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me” (Matt. 25:40). What have we done for the “least of these”? When is the last time we reached out in love to someone who is hurting? How many of us sacrifice our time regularly to help others? If we look at our checkbooks, where is most of the money going? When is the last time we did something for someone who could do absolutely nothing for us? When is the last time we treated with kindness someone who treated us poorly? Do we forgive as Christ forgave? Do we love as He loved? Can we even give a reason for the hope that we have within us?

Connecticut Governor Malloy said that evil visited Newtown. Pure, horrible, unimaginable evil. And the reality is that we all have evil in our hearts. But Christ came to redeem that evil. He came to replace our hearts of hate and evil with a heart of love. A heart that shows His grace.

We Christians feel so comfortable in our pews at church and with our friends who agree with us. But we often ignore the darkness in the world. We are not the salt and light we are commanded to be. We ignore the suffering of others. We condemn sin, rather than reach out and show God’s grace. We don’t love our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t even love our spouses or families as we ought. We pick and choose the sins that are acceptable and find it all too easy to judge those who sin differently than we do.

Maybe we should condemn ourselves. What if some Christian had reached out to Adam Lanza? I’m willing to bet Christians came into contact with him. But they probably thought he was weird and not worthy of their time. He was described as unusual and a loner. What if one Christian had shown him that he was loved? I’m not discounting that he probably had some serious psychological issues. I’m not a psychologist, but I’m willing to bet that the responses of other people and the way other people reacted to him helped to influence and reinforce those issues. I wonder if someone had the opportunity to shine light into his darkness and didn’t take that opportunity.

We Christians must take ownership of this evil we see in this world because we can change it. The evil and the darkness remain because we are not light. We ignore hurting and dark hearts. We enjoy our brightly-lit corners, our brightly-lit homes. Occasionally we come face to face with the depth of the darkness. And we have a choice. We can either shine into that darkness, or we can retreat to our well-lit corner and just stay there.

I wonder how many orphans would have a home if Christians obeyed God’s commands to help the fatherless and the widows. I wonder how many children would go to bed with full tummies, rather than hungry tummies, if Christians shared more of their wealth. I wonder how many suicides could be prevented if Christians listened, heard the hurt, and realized the call for help. Oh, wouldn’t the world be such a different place?

Christians are to be light. The school system is not commanded to be light. The courthouses are not commanded to be light. The malls are not commanded to be light. I am commanded to be light.

The children who died in Newtown have changed me. I cannot stay wrapped up in my own selfish little world. I want to care when it is uncomfortable. I want to give when it is difficult.

Right now, I will weep with those who weep. That seems the only fitting thing to do. My heart feels overwhelmed with darkness. But I still have light. And I can use that light to change the darkness in my small corner of the world.

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