“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”— James 3:16-18
As the aftermath of the Parkland shooting unfolds, I sit and listen and wonder.
Just like all the school shooting events in the past years—-everyone has an opinion. Change the gun laws. Help people with mental illness. Beef up school security. And our President’s recent solution– train and arm certain teachers and coaches in all schools to shoot down a school shooter if they come in the building. I see parents crying. I see students pleading. I see teachers posting. I see students being accused of being “crisis actors” as they organize rallies to take matters into their own hands.
What have we become? Where is our path as a country? Why are we so lost?
Though most individuals in our country are not violent, we as a culture have sown seeds of violence on many fronts. I know that our country does have gun-rights laws, but I think it goes beyond possession of the physical objects. Both adults and the younger generation can sample a whole buffet of violent movies, violent video games, violent lyrics and actions against others in music and entertainment with the click of a mouse or the push of a button on a remote or smartphone.
As a culture, it feels at times like we have turned into a mass of rude, angry, sarcastic, obnoxious, anxious, self-centered, belligerent people. Look at our accepted standards of “normal” of how we treat others in schools, in our households, on our social media, at work, on the streets, or outside our homes. We have lost sight of community, we have forgotten our values, and we wonder why we are where we are…
My own teens put it well when I try to question and correct something rude or inappropriate that they say: “I can say what I want, it’s a free country.”
Yes, it is a free country. We are free to watch what we want. We are free to listen to what we want. We are free to be with whom we want. We are free to do what we want (provided we follow the law). We are free to say what we want (most of the time). We are free to think what we want. We are free to buy what we want. We are free, and that is an enormous blessing as a country.
But somehow, that freedom to “do what we want” has come with an enormous price. The price of our kids. Our families. Our communities.
I don’t know the answers to all of this. I see it as a multi-layered mess that has many components that need to be thought out and worked through. I see it as something our whole country has to work on together, and I think that is where things break down. We can’t seem to work together anymore. We can’t seem to compromise anymore. We can’t seem to really listen anymore. And we will get nowhere if we can’t do those basic things.
But we can start one small place— with the person in the mirror. Ourselves. We can become better listeners to all people. We can become people who work for community. We can become people who can shut our mouths long enough to hear what others are saying. We can humble ourselves, repent, and invite God to help us through this mess. We already know people of grace, love, generosity, compassion, and healing, and we can become like them. I am convinced that is our path through the pain. Obviously, going at it alone is not working. We need another way. And God can provide that.
Start with yourself. Pray for the courage to change. Be open to the paths God leads you down to help others. Make change in your corner of the world. And He will lead the way to healing.
Prayer–“Gracious God, You have seen humans from the beginning of time encounter the pain and misery we often find ourselves in. Help me to change the one thing I surely can: myself. Forgive me, humble me, make me more like you so I can help a hurting world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”