School Violence. . . Some Thoughts. . .

This morning’s paper had this headline on the front page: “Many turn to Jesus for ‘hope, healing.’ Texas town worships en masse after 10 die at Santa Fe High School.” The article served up another couple of gut punches as I thought about the reality of parents burying children, friends waking up knowing they will never see a friend again, kids carrying the burden of trauma, and the families of perpetrators navigating confusion and horror. Never having been through any of this myself, it is unimaginable.

Still, this morning’s headline not only recounts the realities of the all-too-often horrors of life in this broken and hurting world, but it also points to the ultimate answer. It’s that tension we must live with in the now-but-not-yet Kingdom of God. God has come in human flesh with unimaginable grace to answer unimaginable and unbearable pain and heartache. In fact, He bears it. A couple of days ago, our friend Dr. Diane Langberg. . . who says that “trauma is the mission-field of the 21st century. . . tweeted this reminder: “Every kind of suffering or grieving that you find in any human being, Christ has carried.”

Lest we fall into the error of focusing on “gun violence” alone, we must focus on all types of school violence kids experience in today’s world. Other weapons include things like words, fists, and social media. At the root of it all is our human brokenness. Each episode is a scream for redemption, crying out not only the words “everything is broken” (remember the Dylan song?), but also the desperate words “somebody please fix this!” Ultimately, it is the human heart that must be fixed.

This morning’s headline reminds us of the great need for Gospel proclamation and Christian nurture. . . first and foremost in the home, and then in the beautiful gift of the church, both in the larger multi-generational body of Christ, and also in that positive peer environment known as the youth group. And, to effectively take kids deep into the biblical narrative that offers hope and healing, those of us who parent, preach, teach, and lead must be relentless about going deeper and deeper into that story ourselves.
This morning, I read two pieces from long-time devotional companions. Both provided me with perspective as I pondered the most recent school violence in light of the Gospel.
The first was from Paul Tripp and his New Morning Mercies daily devotional (highly recommended!). This morning, Tripp reminds us of some personal aspects of living in the “already” but “not yet” Kingdom of God. He writes, “First, it is vital for you and me to always remember that we live in an already of complete forgiveness.” He goes on. . . “On the other end, it is essential to understand the not yet of your final repair. . . One danger (sin) still lives in me and another (temptation) still lurks outside of me, so I am still a person in daily and desperate need of grace.”

The “already” but “not yet.” It’s not just personal. It extends into every nook and cranny of our world. And so we strive to see the Kingdom realized both within and without as we seek to flourish, pursuing/living God’s intended Shalom as long as we have breath and life. And, we are motivated to such out of grateful obedience for His grace in our lives, as well as our desire to see ourselves and our world move into conformity to His will and His way. So, we push back on brokenness and injustice wherever we see it, yet we know that the groaning creation will not be released from bondage until the “not yet” becomes the “now.”

The second came from Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers, and a “Prayer of Intercession for Friends” that I believe we must pray for the broken and hurting that we know and don’t know. . . including communities like those in Texas. Here’s Scotty’s prayer. . .

Dear Lord Jesus, there’s a lot more to friendship than praying for my friends, but I haven’t really been a good friend unless I’ve prayed and continue to pray for them… especially in the face of heart-woes and heart-wars.

     As I begin this day, bringing specific friends before your throne of grace, I do so resting in the wonder that you call me your friend, and that you are constantly advocating and interceding for me, and all your beloved. There’s nothing I can really add to the perfection of your intercession, but I can surely participate in it. Indeed, how can I enjoy such a rich standing in grace and not “stand in the gap” for my friends? You tell me that I fail you—I sin against you by failing to pray for my friends, so here I come…

     For my friends with broken hearts… Jesus, I pray for the reach and touch of your tear-wiping hand. Spare them from those (of us) who would “heal their wounds lightly.” Heal them in such a fashion that will leave them mercy-full, not merely pain-free.

     For my friends with angry hearts… Jesus, I pray you will dialogue with them the way you entered Jonah’s rage. “Do you have a right to be angry?”, you asked the conflicted prophet. I’m not praying you will simply make my angry friends sweet. Help them see the sad behind the mad… the pettiness in the petulance… and the real hurt being mishandled in more hurtful ways.

     For my friends with fearful hearts… Jesus, I pray you will bring your centering, calming presence to bear. To be fearful is one thing, but to be fearful and alone is almost unbearable. Place your hand upon them in the gospel—the way you touched the Apostle John (Revelation 1:17-18). Speak deep into their hearts, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One.”

     For my friends with deceived hearts… Jesus, we’re prone to wonder and you’re prone to come after us. For my friends with hearts en route to being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin… those under Satanic spells… those who are simply selfish, stubborn and stupid… Jesus, rescue them before they bring any more harm to themselves and others, I pray.

     Jesus, help all of us… starting with me… help all of us constantly remember what great things you have done for us, so that we might fear you with affectionate reverence and serve you faithfully with all our hearts. So very Amen, I pray, in your grace-full name.

One thought on “School Violence. . . Some Thoughts. . .

  1. Here is a headline I would love to see “Many turn to the Cross for ‘power, wisdom.” Sadly that five letter name means nothing when disconnected from the cross. It is also a perversion of the teachings of Jesus to disconnect his sacrificial love from his call to follow, imitate that love. There is one cross in Christianity, if you know it, you bear it. Today just as many turn from the religion of Jesus because it has perverted the meaning of the cross.

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