The Newtown Tragedy: A Reflection & A Response

I woke up on Friday morning, December 14th, to the sounds of my wife gasping as she found out that an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut had been shot up. For the next several hours we sat, mouths open, watching the news.

We cried.

We were angry.

We vented.

We thought of that being our children.

We thought of the parents.

We saw for the first time in our lifetime a President cry on national TV.

We prayed.

We told our children, and then hugged them tight.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is not the first school shooting, nor will it be the last. It is not the first national tragedy, nor will it be the last. There are mass murders of children, young folk, and innocent bystanders everyday in US low-income neighborhoods and in others countries. The only difference is they don’t get as much publicity as this recent tragedy. But that is not a reason to minimalize the Newtown tragedy. Twenty young lives were lost. Eight adult lives were lost (school staff, the gunman, and his mother). This is ample enough reason to be upset and saddened.

The Victims & Their Families

It’s hard to think of dead children. Well, at least it is for me. I have three children. My two youngest are 7 and 5. That’s around the same ages of the kids who died at Sandy Hook Elementary. Thinking of never seeing my kids again makes my heart hurt. I can feel the pain deep in my chest. My children are my offspring. They are mini-mes. So I can only imagine what those parents must be going through. Or to lose my wife, who went to work only never to return. My state of shock and sense of loss would be paralyzing. Next to Jesus, my wife is my life. She is my rib. So I can only imagine what the spouses must be enduring. The pain.

Loss is the greatest knock-the-wind-out-of-your-chest blow. Loss has a way of K-O’ing us. Why? Because when God created us, He hardwired us for relationships and purpose (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:15, 18). Therefore, losing something we dearly love and dearly value never to have it again is the hardest thing for human beings to cope with. It’s the reason why depression and anxiety are so common and deadly. We have a hard time dealing with loss or the thought of loss. All of us then can empathize with these families, and we should. So weep with them and grieve with them. But let not their loss be in vain. Cherish the treasures that matter most: faith, family, and friends. And let not the heroism of the teachers and staff to put others before themselves be in vain. Fight selflessly for what matters most. Let us keep that in mind.

Reflection of a Villain

I was humbled. This tragedy is a reminder for us…a reminder for me. As much as we may not want to admit it, this tragedy is nothing more than another confirmation of how mankind’s depravity has no limits. John Piper wrote about this as well,

“…the murders of Newtown are a warning to me — and you. Not a warning to see our schools as defenseless, but to see our souls as depraved. To see our need for a Savior. To humble ourselves in repentance for the God-diminishing bitterness of our hearts. To turn to Christ in desperate need, and to treasure his forgiveness, his transforming, and his friendship.”

If any of us believe that we are somehow different than Adam Lanza (the shooter), we have lost sight of our own depravity. If we remove Jesus from our life, we are no different. All we have to do is read passages like Ephesians 2:1-3, Titus 3:3, Colossians 3:5-9, and Galatians 5:19-21.

I can say personally I was Adam Lanza before Jesus rescued me. I murdered innocent lives with abortion, rape, drug dealing, and street violence…oh and I can’t forget the lives I’ve took with my selfishness, arrogance, deception, rage, and manipulation. I took innocence. I corrupted young minds. I terrorized families. I abused women and children. Adam Lanza is nothing more than a mirror of my old self. And that shook me, because my egregious sins have never been publicized like his. The lives I destroyed have never been nationally prayed for or comforted or mourned. I caused Newtown like tragedies for 16 years, and that’s just before Jesus. That’s not counting tragedies I’ve caused bearing the name of Christ. This is why I was humbled.

What about you? How many tragedies are accredited to your sin and selfishness? Have you forgotten your reflection as a villain before Christ and at times since being in Christ?

What can we do?

The Apostle Peter told us that “the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers” (1Pet. 4:7, NKJV). We have to pray saints! Pray for those affected by the Sandy Hook school shooting. They need it. But also pray for everyone affected by sin and its effects. The voiceless. The unattended. The disadvantaged. And so on. My wife has a saying, “There is no such thing as a victimless sin.” How true! Sin rampages all of us in some way or another. And as we continue to get closer to “the end of all things”, sin will rampage all the more. Therefore, be serious and watchful in your prayers. Beseech the God of all Creation and watch Him work.

Peter doesn’t end his point with a call to only be intentional in prayer. He ends it with a call to be intentional in love. 

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” (1Pet. 4:8, NKJV)

Our greatest witness to a depraved and dying world is exhibiting God’s fervent, life-giving, sacrificial, undeserving love (Luke 6:27-36). We are to love the victims and the perpetrators. We are to love the abused and the abusers. We are to love sinners and saints. Why? Because we all were once victims, perps, abused, abusers, and sinners guilty before God, and it was His fervent, life-giving, sacrificial, undeserving love that drew us to Himself. Thus, it will be His love through us that will draw another to Himself. It will be His love through us that will help heal and mend the hurt and the broken. It will be His love through us that will help soften the hard-hearted, help settle the angry, help accept and embrace the misunderstood, help possibly rescue another Adam Lanza, or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (shooters of Columbine), or Seung-Hui Cho (the Virginia Tech shooter). His love rescued me, and I was a killer before these killers.

We’ve all been tossed around, world flipped upside down from the rampages of sin and selfishness---whether that be of our own doing or someone else’s. And those of us who are born-again, who’ve been rescued from sin’s penalty and freed from sin’s enslavement, we therefore have also experienced the comfort of God. Hence, the reason why Paul writes in 2Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT),

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

As Christians, we’ve been on both sides of tragedies, the pain and the comfort! So we can come alongside those who are victimized and visited with tragedies and flood them with the same comfort we received from God. We can shower them with the fruit of the Spirit---which should sum up our loving manner of interaction, demeanor, and posture when around them. We can, at the right time and in a gentle and gracious manner, share with them the all-satisfying and eternal joy of the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Finally, even though we are not wrong to desire justice to be served when an injustice is present, we cannot forget to remember that our sin and injustices require justice as well. So as God forgave us of ours, so are we to forgive others of theirs. It’s not easy, but it is beneficial to all involved and a reflection of our Savior (and not the old villain in us). We have to forgive Adam Lanza, and any other Adam Lanza’s in our life too.

I hope my reflection and response will be of some help in some way during this time.

“The Lord is a safe place for the oppressed—a safe place in difficult times. Those who know your name trust you because you have not abandoned any who seek you, Lord.” (Ps. 9:9-10, CEB)

18 …God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”” (2Cor. 5:18-20, NLT)