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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tragedy Close To Home

Yesterday a young man opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle from the third floor of the Von Maur where my little sister works. He killed eight and wounded five in the Westroads Mall in Omaha before shooting himself as well. This massacre is the worst of its kind in Nebraska history and my sister was there, under the shooter, corralling customers into the backroom of the shoe department. She talked live over the phone with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that afternoon, and appeared on ABC's Good Morning America this morning. People talk about the "six degrees of separation" that exist between any individual and every other person or event in the world, but this is much closer today.

So how do I think about all that's taken place? How should we as a society think about it? Most of the people I have talked to have responded in grief (understandably) but also in anger. My reaction is not anger but a breaking heart at the thought that this was his best escape and way to "go out". People are saying, "I can't believe it happened here", but, frankly, I can. Every community has individuals who are loners, either of their own volition or by the exclusion and negligence of the people around them. A suicide speaks of a life likely void of hope, love, or joy. But murder suggests anger and hatred, and such random victims suggests these violent emotions were directed at society and humanity in general. I heard someone say once, "When a person has no hope, consequences mean nothing".

I would like to think that an event like this will cause us all to be a little less self-absorbed and start looking out a little better for the depressed, angry, and hopeless in our society. I hope that now we'll grow a little introspective and consider who in our own lives needs some love and attention to show that their lives have value. However, this is not the first time something like this has happened, and everyone seems to find a way to get back into rat race without too much life change. Honestly, my expectations are not high.

But for myself and all Christians, I have higher expectations and hopes. How are we any different from the rest of the world if all we say is "When it's your time, it's your time, make sure you're ready"? Frankly, that response is selfish and lazy. Selfish because Jesus calls us to much more than a passive assent of His sovereignty and providence spoken in an air of superiority. Lazy because it requires no change or reaction from the Christian to be more like Christ.

I hope we are daily looking for the outcasts, the depressed, the needy, and the hopeless. I hope we are ready with a caring word, a helping hand, and a saving grace. I expect much more from the Christian lot just as Christ requires much more. Christ came for people such as this, and the Good News of the life and hope in Him can truly change hearts and lives. We have a choice. We can react in mindless anger and hatred and go back to our daily lives in bitterness, or we can allow our hearts to be broken and perhaps prevent the next shooting by giving hope and loving those who need it most.

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