So you don’t have to look at many of my posts to figure out that I’m long-winded. I was an English minor–I like to write. With that in mind, I decided to turn my thoughts on the VT shooting into two posts instead of making it one drearily long post (this one being significantly shorter than the last, so breathe a sigh of relief…) So here’s part 2…
In my last post I discussed the way in which the VT shootings can open our eyes to the suffering that is in the rest of the world. Our broken hearts give us a window into understanding others who suffer in the world, and once we form that connection, we will be more able to love them. In the same way that God connected to us by coming down and suffering alongside of us in this fallen world, we are called to do the same.
But there is a second reason I believe the VT shootings can give Christians insight into the world around them: It enables us to take Sin more seriously. Many times we are apathetic to the suffering of others because we only think about sin when it affects us–whether we struggle with a temptation, or have been hurt by someone else’s selfishness, in general we only think about sin when it impacts us, and that is the extent of it.
Let me give you 2 reasons why this me-centered understanding of Sin is inherently problematic:
1. It Leads to Inaction–Like I said, most of us don’t think about the ugliness of sin until it affects us in some inconvenient or painful way. Only then do we take it serisouly, though probably only for a moment. And while these eye-opening hardships can be helpful in that they force us to confront the reality of sin in the world, they don’t happen very often, which means the times in which we truly reflect on the cost of sin are few and far between. For most of us living in America, our lives are easy enough that we are not confronted with the harsh realities of sin on a regular basis. For this reason, we have gotten used to ignoring the power of sin, so it’s not something we perceive as being an active threat to our faith. In fact, we probably benefit from sin at times, so we don’t often perceive it to be the “crouching lion” that Scripture describes. And because we don’t think about sin that often, or realize just how destructive it truly is, sin goes out of sight and out of mind, which leads us to underestimate its power in the world. We don’t give it much credit for being the source of so much pain and evil in the world, since it’s not often the source of *our* pain, so we feel little need to fight it or resist it, at least not in the ways it affects other people. Why resist something that’s not really a problem for us? So as long as Sin is not affecting us, it’s not really our problem, and we can just keep on letting the rest of the world suffer. Sin runs rampant, corrupting governments, enslaving children as prostitutes, and causing wars, while we sit idly by in our comfortable homes because none of that has anything to do with us, forgetting that when sin is left unchecked in the world, chaos ensues and the power of sin will eventually touch us…much like it did Monday. Let us therefore not forget that sin is very much a real force in this world, and as long as the world is affected by it, we will be affected by it sooner or later, even if we don’t bear the consequences right away. Hopefully, however, we will not wait to act until the oppressive power of sin affects us. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we should respond to their pain as quickly as we would respond to our own. And that is what’s at stake here–when we ignore the sin in the world, and how it affects others, we also tend to ignore God’s second greatest commandment.
2. We Forget That This World Is Not Our Home–By ignoring the extent of sin’s presence in the world, we forget that this world is not, in fact, our home. Hopefully the VT shootings have jolted us out of that self-deception. The more we grieve for the sin in this world, the more we will yearn for the New Creation in which there is no more pain and suffering. We are strangers in a strange land, and weeks like this should remind us of that truth. Not only will it prevent us from becoming so comfortable here that we compromise our identity as disciples in favor of the easier path of the American dream, but it will compel us to spread the hope that we have in a future life. Most people in this world don’t have the luxury of being comfortable on this earth. What’s more, most people don’t have the hope that there is redemption after this earth. We have both, so we often forget those other people and their hopelessness. But on the occasion when we are hurt by the fallen world in which we live, it will hopefully wake us up to the fact that others are suffering because of it too. Such knowledge should compel us to go out and share the hope we have. Salvation is not a personal luxury that privately reassures us of our secure future–it is Good News to be shared with everyone. Suffering reminds us why.
So as we continue to mourn the loss that our country has experienced, let us not forget that this kind of tragedy happens every day all over the world. We live in a world that is plagued by sin, and this week’s events remind us of just how devastating that sin truly is. Hopefully such knowledge will move us to action, action being the only reasonable response when we possess the one true hope in a hopeless world.