Well, it’s happened again. For reasons as yet mostly unknown and perhaps unknowable, an angry, crazed gunman has given evil yet another infamous face by unleashing an unrelenting cascade of bullets into a crowd assembled outdoors in Las Vegas for a concert, killing almost 60 and injuring about ten times that many. And that is only the physical damage. In a world where we grow weary of exponentials, and tired adjectives just seem to fail us—this is being called “The most devastating mass-killing in American history.”
A lot of questions come up, mostly starting with “why?” or “how?”—and the answers to these questions are hard to come by. An unthinkable act has become all-too-“thinkable”—in fact, almost expected in our culture. Hardly a week goes by now that there is not a terror-related attack somewhere in the world. It comes and goes as a blip, almost having become a now routine part of life in a world where terrorists are very good at what they do. It happens less often in America, for which we should be grateful, but it happens often enough that we have become somewhat de-sensitized to it all. We lower our flags to half-staff around the nation, mourning the price of evil and groaning under the collective and ever-increasing weight of our existence in a truly fallen, broken world. Maybe we should just leave the flags at half-staff all the time.
Without delving into the myriad of angles this issue deserves, I really want to point out just one thing. Of course the world is a dangerous and scary place, and we are more aware again of how true this is due to the proximity of this week’s recent terror. But the awful, unavoidable reality of the matter and palpable horror associated with the trauma doesn’t really change anything. Indeed it should only serve to make those of us who should know already–more aware again of this truth: In a sin-devastated, vulnerable, dark and dangerous world—the only true security will never come from anything tied to this world. Paul was looking beyond the world to a greater hope when he wrote to believers, “If in this life only we have hope, we are to be pitied above all men.” Paul knew that a believer’s hope and security must be found in things far greater, far beyond this troubled earthly space or any imagined security it might provide.
Evil will have its day and say in the world, and more people will get hurt and damaged by the brokenness exploding and perhaps imploding around us. Legislation and controls and cameras and police and Homeland Security will only make a tiny dent in hindering evil’s course. But one Day, Jesus teaches, that which is broken will be fully healed and made right with the dawning of a new heaven and a new earth. The only thing that will ever adequately fix this broken planet is the final culmination of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. If nothing else, we should be eagerly welcoming the Day.
Until then, we’re here. We need to remember this is only earth. It’s broken and dangerous and we are at risk, every one of us. We only have to look in a mirror to be reminded that apart from the redemptive work of Jesus, any and every one of us bears a sin nature that could explode in a newsworthy fashion. But for the overruling grace of Jesus things would be much worse even than they are. Still, it is a scary time to be alive and the news troubles our hearts and makes us homesick for the kind of security and safe place we’ll never find here. Until that Day dawns when Jesus says, “Enough!” and time material collides with time immaterial—until that Day, we must remember that we are strangers here, but not in any way abandoned or forgotten or alone. To those in a storm-tossed terrorized world Jesus still has the same words that he did long ago for disciples who were terrified by a storm: “Peace, be still.” And those words mean the same thing to us that they did to the 12 terrorized sailors who feared for their lives in a tossing ship that day—those three words mean that Jesus knows and Jesus cares.
No one is more offended by this sin-scarred world than Jesus, no one knows better the cost of sin and the consequence of human gone-wrongness. And no one else could make the promise Jesus did, “I am with you always, even until the end of the earth.” It’s a promise you can count on, if you’ve trusted him as your only true security. Come what may, we are safe in Jesus!
Until he comes, we his Church continue our mission, the daunting task of being the sacrificially redemptive elements of salt and light in a shadowy, decaying world. We “live our lives” –less afraid of what evil might do to us or to those we love–because we know that even death is no big deal to Jesus, and that even if through death we are parted from our loved ones, it is only temporary. Eternity will provide a perfect cure for all of the trauma earth can provide. Paul calls these things we suffer “light and momentary struggles that will be far outweighed by the glory that is to come.” Maybe we should live less afraid for ourselves and “more afraid” for those whom death will not find in the embrace of Jesus but consigned to a hell without him.
The flags around our nation may be at half-staff; our hearts indeed are broken for those who’ve tasted loss and pain in this most recent event. We wonder what has come of our nation and where it is heading, although we know the answers to those questions perhaps better than we’d like to admit. Against the backdrop of lowered flags, grieving hearts, questioning uncertainties—the empty Cross of Jesus Christ still stands tall as it ever has been, the sentinel statement and reminder that God indeed will get the last word. Put your hope there. You are absolutely secure there.