Most of America was shocked yet again when another senseless, inexplicable mass murder took place in our nation. This time it was where the shooting occurred that touched many of us, almost as much as the tragic loss of life.
I’ve heard some spiritual leaders say that “every place we go should be safe” so that security should be the same at a night club as at a church. Somehow, I don’t think this is the mindset of people in America. For more than two and a half centuries, Americans have viewed their place of worship as a “holy” place. The word holy here is not just in reference to the fact that God is worshiped, but also is implicitly tied to the meaning of the word in the original language which is “to be set apart.” It seems to me that the majority of Americans would view our places of worship as being “set apart” from other venues when it comes to violence and most especially something as unthinkable as mass murder.
It may also be stating the obvious to say that we are beginning to become somewhat numbed by the barrage of such occurrences just this past year. Last week it was 8 pedestrians in New York City, and a few weeks before that it was 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, etc., etc. This has given rise to a number of conversations that I’ve had in just the past three days that have asked the question, “What is going on?”
Unfortunately, I’m not prepared to speculate or even try to provide a shell of an explanation for such egregious and unthinkable occurrences.
However, I do want to make an observation about two things that go together and are often unspoken until someone exits this life and is being eulogized at his or her funeral service.
Over the past 40+ years of attending hundreds of funerals I can not recall an obituary or eulogy that focused on how someone looked, if they had a full head of hair, white teeth or expensive clothes. The things that are almost always referenced have to do with the person’s demeanor, their ability to provide friendship, care, service and most especially love.
In the end, most of us want to be known as having been a “good person” more than we want to be known as someone who was successful, well-off or powerful and highly accomplished. (There is nothing wrong with those things, but rarely do they define us at the end of our lives.)
In a recent conference that I attended, a question was asked about what goals or aspirations did people hold for their lives. The highest “vote-getter” for that question was to live a good life. This was also rather profoundly captured in our Declaration of Independence as the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
I wonder if what we have lost in our pursuit of “the good life” is the fact that it cannot be separated from what it means to be “a good person.” In fact, in biblical understanding, a good person will become someone through whom a good life will naturally flow. (I want to be clear in stating that living a good life is not the same as having eternal life.)
It is worth noting that when Jesus was called “good” by the Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18, He quickly responded by saying,
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
From that one verse, we might be led to believe that being a good person is simply not possible, but many other verses would reject that idea such as Matthew 12:35 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him.” etc. Yes, a good man is one whose identity has been established in who God is and not surprisingly a good man will then live “a good life.”
It’s imperative that we understand that it’s not the other way around. Would you not do good things or try to live a good life, so that we can be called a good person? That’s futile. As our identity as a son or daughter of God becomes increasingly real to us, when we understand that we have been forgiven and accepted by God because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our fallen nature, we then begin to discern what decisions leading a good life would require.
Clearly, there’s no quick or easy way to pursue such a radical shift in our orientation. I would say, however, that it’s the responsibility of every parent and/or guardian to help their children understand God’s definition of goodness and to learn at an early age that good things flow out of the heart of a good person.
I would submit that, though this may not be a quick fix, that within a generation there would be a radical shift in the core of our nation; not one that was imposed by some sort of legislation or political posturing, but by the transformation of a human heart; something only God can do.
Our prayers continue to be with those who have lost loved ones or are recovering from the injuries of these past weeks.