[article.] The Newtown Massacre: How Should We Respond?
Published on December 20, 2012
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 children and seven adults (his own life being among them)…
We all know this, and have been, in some way, affected. Some of us are harder than others, able to hear the news and go about our day. Some of us are softer, and completely unable to hear or think about it without breaking down. There are many different reasons for the many different reactions. We are individuals who are special in our own ways.
However, we are also Christian. We are the Church – a united people of God in this fallen world. While we may be diverse in many ways, we are called to be unified in other ways. It is this unity in our emotions, words, and actions that distinguish us from the rest of the world. It is this unity that the Lord uses to draw men and women unto himself, especially during difficult and devastating times.
As soon as the news hit so did the responses. Facebook statuses, tweets, podcasts, and conversations pervaded as people felt and expressed the often avoided reality of wickedness in our world. Wickedness doesn’t care much for our liberties. It doesn’t ask our permission. It bursts through the door. It takes lives – even the lives of children.
The main issue of this post, however, is our response. How do we respond, as a unified people, to the Newtown massacre? In the following paragraphs, my goal is to give some biblical insight into the matter in an effort to unify our hearts and minds as we live among the confused, the hurting, and the angry.
First, Christians should mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:15). You may not know anyone who is immediately affected by the shooting, but you can still join with those who are weeping during this time. Parents and friends are experiencing pain unlike any they have ever felt. Most will never get over it. Their baby’s bedroom is just as they left it that day. Their dirty clothes haven’t been washed; their dirty dish is still in the sink; their favorite toy is still in the floor – never to be touched by those small hands again. As a father, I cannot imagine the pain.
I will be honest. It is hard for me to mourn with them without imagining how I’d feel if one of the kids was mine. I’m not sure if this is right or not. My heart is one that is traditionally cold. But through prayer, it is warming. If your heart is cold, pray. Pray that you may feel compassion for those families. Try not to say a word about the event to anyone without weeping warmth in your heart. Try not to talk about it without tears.
Second, Christians should sober up. Disney Land is good, but only for short amounts of time. What happened in Connecticut is no video game. Wickedness is real and active in our hearts, in our homes, communities, and in our world. Shamefully, it takes events like this to wake our nation from the comas of addiction to sports, games, electronics, and a host of other futile things. It is unfortunate that we feel more emotional joy over a touchdown than sorrow over a murder. I’m no innocent man…either.
Third, Christians should not fear. I have heard more strategies about how we are going to protect our families in the future than how we are going to proclaim the gospel to the nations. This is no time for the church to clam up. This is no time for retreat, anxiety, or over-desires for safety. As Christians we fear no man (Ps 56:11), but humbly trust our mighty God – our Warrior Jesus Christ. Right now, Christians ought to be strange to those who have no faith. Our response would be one of fearless, sacrificial action as we share the gospel and love the unlovable.
For too long we have left the criminal unloved. The only problem is that unloved criminals kill. Our Lord loves felons. He loves criminals. We are a case in point. He did not fear us – we should not fear them.
Fourth, we should not wonder why he did it. People murder image bearers because they hate the One whose image they bear. Adam Lanza hated God and he took that hatred to one of the highest levels by murdering little ones that are close to the Maker’s heart. The answer is no mystery. Do not be fooled. He hated God.
Fifth, we should notice that Adam Lanza was given little-to-no time to repent of his actions before he was in the presence of the Judge he had just enraged. Many who commit such crimes are mercifully and graciously given time to think about what they’ve done, to hear preachers, and to repent of their actions. Mr. Lanza was afforded no such mercy. He was given no such grace.
For those of us who feel a deep desire for justice after the shooting, and who likewise feel frustration that he “took justice into his own hands” before our system could punish him, know this – he is paying for his actions. The hight or our punitive system would have been Disney Land compared to what he is now receiving. Right this moment, Adam Lanza is dreadfully sorry for his actions.
Sixth, Christians should communicate this judgement of God upon people who perform evil actions. We must do so humbly, knowing and feeling the weight of the fact that we, too, deserve the judgment of God. The biblical motive for communicating this truth is to preserve life – to dissuade similar activity in the future. One of the purposes of civil punishment is to protect civilians. To lighten punishment and the threat of it is to lighten protection and the safety that should come with it.
We should also recognize that the idea of God hating sin and not the sinner is foreign to the Scriptures. It is not biblical. Yes, he hates wicked and sinful actions; but “his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence (Ps 11:5).
Seventh, without a doubt, some will use Lanza’s mental illness as a reason to absolve him from guilt. We must not fall into the trap. Lack of ability does not free us from our responsibility. This is perhaps one of the greatest fallacies of our current judicial system. The tendency in our day is to free the guilty by declaring them insane, or unable to perform otherwise. God’s Word makes no such provision. Murdered lives must be vindicated. The Lord, justly vindicates (Rom 12:19).
Finally, Christians must be ready to share the gospel – especially during these times. We must sober up and be ready to preach the good news of redemption and hope to the multitudes who have no Refuge, Hope, or Security. We must turn our televisions off and open constant lines of prayer.
And we must be ready to love with a sacrificial love, an uncomfortable love, a scandalous, strange love, a love that loves the unlovable, a love that reaches the criminal, the autistic, the disabled, the “normal”, the KKK member, the Black Panther, the child-molester, the wrecked, the murderer, the mourner, meek, poor, widow, and stranger. This love is empowered by the Spirit, mediated by the Son, and commanded by the Father. It is a love that makes us Christian. It is a love that makes Christ shine during such dark and hopeless times.
May the Lord have mercy on us all. May he comfort those who weep today.