Last week I had a bad dream. I was standing in a parking lot when I heard two shots; then the terrible news that I won’t relate here. I woke up and immediately began praying for my family, my church, and for those living in fear from terrorism. That same morning, I opened the paper to find two stories about violent shootings, of muslim families in Syria and Jews in Tel Aviv. The next day, after Sunday worship, I was informed about the murder of more than 50 souls at a gay bar in Florida. We join the world in grief over these events, not to mention the shooting of concert goers in Paris, black worshipers in Charleston SC, students and professors at nearby colleges, and defenseless children in Newtown Conn.
I don’t need to tell you that these represent a fraction of the lives lost in recent years in mass shootings, nor that such atrocities reveal a deep sickness in our culture. One response is to ring our hands in shocked disbelief. Yet it’s been said that our shock and dismay is really just the denial of our own frightening capacity to do evil, given the right conditions. But what to do? Jesus says that the first step is to “take the log out of your own eye,” and ask how you might be contributing – in small and large ways -- to a culture of violent anger and resentments.
Let’s be clear. For Christians, escape from this world is not the priority. Jesus does not call us out of this world, but sends us into it as salt, light, and couriers of hope (Matthew 5: 13-16). Yes, we long for His promise of eternal life, but also that His kingdom would fully come and His will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” There are good historical reasons to take seriously the power of Jesus’ words and ways, His example of sacrificial enemy-love, and the blessing of life together in his family. Isaiah prophesied that one day “The wolf shall live with the lamb…and a little child shall lead them” (11:6). My eager expectation in Christ is that, bad dreams aside, every good dream God has given us for this world, will come true. May we live now in anticipation of that better future…