Once again there has been another mass shooting this time in a Florida school in Parkland where 17 students were shot by a former student Nicky Cruz.
Once again the media is full of people using it to advance an agenda whether it be gun control, mental health, school security, the uselessness of prayers or abortion as the biggest killer of children.
But perhaps we should ask the most important question: what would Jesus do?
In Luke 13:1-5 we see Jesus told about a tragedy where Pilate murdered some Israelites as they were in the middle of their sacrifices which was considered a truly heinous action.
Does Jesus respond with outcry against the Romans? A demand for justice? A demand to rise up with the Zealots to fight back? Does he respond with sympathy? A call to pray to stop these injustices?
He responds saying that we all deserve to die.
This seems shocking and barbaric to us today.
You probably, like me, want to explain away Jesus actions to something more palatable. Whilst we will look at context in a moment – the important thing is that Jesus is the truth so if we react adversely to his words or actions then it is because we are believing a lie.
Now in those days it was believed that sin would be punished in this life – therefore if something bad happened then it was a sign of Gods judgement. Hence Jesus responds by asking whether those who were killed by others or even by accident are more sinful.
At which point we probably laugh at such foolish behaviour and think ourselves superior and never likely to fall into such errors.
However, CS Lewis hits the nail on the head with:
“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.”
Today, we believe the opposite error – that none of us deserve death or punishment and all of us should go to heaven. This may be expressed more subtlety as “those poor innocent children” and “no-one deserves such a death”.
Jesus’ answer to the false belief of those days, which was repeated by Paul in Romans: “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin are death”, speaks against both errors.
Since all deserve to die and be punished for our wilful rebellion against the Creator of the universe then a death doesn’t mean that victims are more sinful but nor does it mean that it is unfair because they are innocent or don’t deserve it.
However, it does mean that “we do not know the day or hour” and it is important to get ourselves right with God before we face judgement. And such a tragedy always brings us all face to face with our mortality and provides a window to speak to people’s hearts however much we might think it’s not the time.
Some years ago in our town a small boy drowned in a garden pond. This was a heart-breaking tragedy which severely affected my wife and I remember praying for God to intervene in this couple’s life. A couple of years later my wife met the mother of that boy and expressed her deepest condolences. Her response was a testimony to the greatness of God and how so many of her family had been saved as a result of this tragedy. For we have a God that can bring light into the darkest places.
So let us not be so insensitive that we don’t “mourn with those who mourn” but let us also not be so inoffensive that we waste a golden opportunity to share the Gospel.
Let this time be a time to bring not just earthly comfort to those trying to make sense of this tragedy but eternal comfort of a life with Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.