Bad day on Thursday in the news. Four marines killed in Tennessee, probably an act of domestic terrorism. At least that’s what the media is saying.
And then in Colorado the verdict is in for the man who killed 12 and wounded 70 in a theater. The jury didn’t go for the insanity claim – guilty it is!
So, justice is served, where that matters. Not that justice isn’t important, but does that really mean a whole lot to the families that have lost loved ones? I don’t mean to play down the importance of justice, and of seeing that the penalty is paid by those who have violated the lives of others. That’s important – even critical, not just to our society, but for our sense of balance in life. We need to know that there is a fairness in life, and when someone takes action to violate that fairness, there is a price – a big one – to be paid.
Moreover, for the families of the victims, they need a sense of closure. They need to know that there is something, that in some way, brings some retribution, even some payback. If the system doesn’t deliver, they are left empty and unfilled.
So the verdict is important – very important to families, to society, even to you and to me.
But the verdict doesn’t bring back the lost. The verdict doesn’t heal the hurt, the wounds. Justice may bring some closure, but the loss remains, and that’s a loss they will live with for the rest of their lives. “Guilty” doesn’t change that!
Of course, we know the answer. We know what will bring hope and life to these families. God’s presence, comfort, love and courage – all shared with us in the crucified and risen Christ. That’s what will make the difference. We all know that to be true. We may not always totally buy it – we know the words, but sometimes we aren’t quite sold that God’s gifts will bring healing. Nonetheless, in general, we’ve got it covered – Jesus is the answer!
And that takes care of that. We can take a deep breath, relax, and move on in life.
But wait. What about Tennessee? I mean, look. Colorado was tragic, but we affirm that Jesus acts to bring life, even when there is death. So that’s done – let’s get back to normal, to simple, easy living. You know, enjoying the summer, relaxing in the cool of the evening, stuff like that.
Except that we can’t. Tennessee happened, and now the news is full of questions about a man who seemed so different from what his friends experienced, a man who decided to take four other lives, who decided to devastate four families. So, here we go again…
Sadly, it shouldn’t really surprise us. Evil, and its tools – death, fear, anger, hatred – is really quite resilient. Do you really think that a jury decision is going to put a halt to all that evil seeks in our world? Hardly! Evil comes back again and again and again. Staying power, you see, is one of evil’s strongest traits.
That means we are back were we started. Colorado may be done; Tennessee is just beginning. No trial, but lots of questions, lots of investigating, and lots of tears – and maybe, in time, some healing and closure.
Evil is revving it up all over again!
But so is God.
Evil may be resilient, evil may keep popping up just when we thought we could relax, evil may seem to be like a bad weed, coming back again and again. But God is tougher than that!
The promise of life that God brings is centered in the cross of Jesus. The cross is a funny thing. It happened almost 2000 years ago, on a hill outside a backwater city on the edge of the Roman empire. There, a seemingly unimportant rabbi was executed. Story done.
Appearances, however, are very deceiving. The rabbi was hardly unimportant, and while the death was over within hours, the action of the cross didn’t end. In fact, it still hasn’t ended. The cross still acts, and the crucified Jesus still embraces. And in the embrace of the crucified Jesus, the cross shocks us – an instrument of death becomes the means of life!
And it happens again and again and again. For while evil may be resilient, God’s love in Jesus doesn’t give up, and doesn’t give up on us. Where evil comes, God is already there, to support, to nurture, and to provide life that cannot be lost, that cannot be overcome, that cannot be taken away. In the end, evil is persistent and resilient, but God’s love is triumphant!
That’s the message for families in Colorado and in Tennessee, and it’s the message for us. We see the tragic power of evil in other corners of the world, and it rattles our sense of balance. And then, once in a while, we experience that power ourselves. Sometimes in big ways, ways that redefine our lives, and other times in what seems to be something small, that nonetheless throws us off balance. No matter – God’s love in Jesus is there. We are embraced, we are held, and we are renewed in what only God can provide.
And it happens even when it seems like it just can’t happen again. For as evil returns, God’s love remains. And God’s love overcomes. Again and again and again.
Good news for Colorado. Good news for Tennessee. Good news for West Salem.