Another shooting. Another national tragedy. Another hashtag. Another demand for justice. Another social movement.
How does this keep happening? Why does this keep happening?
Some that will say this is a gun issue. We don’t have reasonable enough gun control. Legislators haven’t made the right decisions.
Others will say, this is a mental health issue. We haven’t created enough systems to serve the needs of people struggling with mental illnesses.
And others will say this is a people issue. We haven’t done enough to eliminate bullying, hatred, and violence in the world.
There is some truth to each of these. But none of these issues can sum up what any of this is about. None of these issues wholly recognizes why tragedies like this are happening because none of these issues address the one reality the world keeps asking us to keep to ourselves: we were created by a God who loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.
Why that Matters
We are infinitely loved by a heavenly Father who created us to know the fullness of life by living in relationship with Him. When we live in that knowledge — that we are so deeply loved by so great a Father — our lives our transformed and, through relationships, the lives of our families, our friends, our communities can be transformed.
The world, however, has done a phenomenal job of not-so-politely asking us Christians, over and over again to keep that knowledge to ourselves. Faith is a private matter. Religion doesn’t belong in the public square. Whatever you choose to believe is fine, as long as you don’t let it affect anyone else.
I believe that the world has spoken boldly, loudly, and convincingly over the Gospel narrative, so much so that when incomprehensible acts of violence or tragedies take place, my first thought isn’t “this is the result of sin in a world where God has called us to love.” Instead, my first thoughts are “we have to do something about guns, about mental health, about bullying…”
I’m the Problem
And then I realize that I’m part of the problem… not because I care about reasonable gun restrictions, mental health care, or putting an end to bullying, but because I’m afraid to share Jesus with people.
I’ve cooperated with the world, instead of cooperating with grace. I’ve been afraid to mention my faith around my friends that don’t believe. I’ve been quiet about of some of my lifestyle choices that might come across as “too Catholic” or “too conservative.” I’ve refused to listen to the Holy Spirit when He’s asked me to pray with someone out of the blue.
Instead, I’ve gotten comfortable with the world’s way of dealing with things — apart from God. I’ve agreed to the deal: I’ll keep God to myself and deal with the “real” things of life the way the rest of the world does, without Him. And so I get on my issue high horse and fight for whatever movement is trendy at the time, and let myself be shocked when it doesn’t quite solve the problem.
Initiatives are not bad in and of themselves, but if I believe for a second that they’re enough to turn things around, I’m in for an awful awakening. Tragedies like this will persist as long as people believe the lie that this life is all we have, this world is all we were made for, and this finite existence is all we’ll ever know. The antidote, then, is to show the world that we were made for eternal life, we were created for a heavenly Kingdom, and we have been invited to receive infinite love from our heavenly Father right now.
The antidote, then, has to be lived and shared by me and this is a hard call that I struggle to answer daily. But the fact is, I’ve received the gift of knowing Him, of allowing His love to free me from sin, and of living in relationship with Him, therefore I have a responsibility to share that with the world. I can’t be OK with the world’s way of dealing with life because the world’s way will never work. If I’ve really encountered this God, I know that, apart from Him, we can’t know freedom, happiness, fullness of life, or real love. So how dare I keep that reality to myself?
Sharing the Gospel isn’t always easy and it certainly won’t always be received without opposition. But if we want to see a world with fewer tragedies and more love, we can’t start with the issues. We have to start with God, the source of love itself. It’s never just been about guns.