Glitzy Las Vegas provides the most recent setting of violence. Death punctures the illusion of carnival. What happens in Vegas can no longer stay in Vegas; it has become tragic news, the worst shooting in United States history. The concertgoers ran, and we all wish we could run from the malignant carnage that seems to confront us at all corners.
We pray. Even rather irreligious people pray. And as we pray it is as if we think there is nothing else we need to do.
Violence should not surprise us. This world has always been a violent, deadly place. It started with Cain killing his brother out of petty jealousy (Genesis 4:1-16). And the further we get from God’s garden, the worse it seems to get because one thing is apparent -- every last one of our forebears was messed up, sinful, and self-centered. God put a fence around it with law, but it could not contain the evil (Romans 8:3).
Humanity bent its head against God. We still do, and sometimes it manifests itself in terribly destructive violence.
Jesus spoke life, faith, hope, love, and forgiveness into this messy world. Some of us accept it and revel in its glory, but still there is a part of us that is lured by the world.
We watch unspeakable violence in our movies. Computer-generated images have made it possible to depict a beheading in detail and texture that makes it seem real. In the not-too-distant past the camera did not follow the blade to its terminus; the shot faded upward or away from the deadly stroke.
We perpetrate electronic violence via video games. These games appear so real that they mimic in the “player” the feeling of power associated with destruction. What game players do not experience is what virtually every real warrior has experienced -- the almost unbearable mental weight of witnessing human carnage and loss.
We voyeurs of violence, what do we expect from our world? The violence shocks us when it hits home, but our choices to watch violence and play games with it have perpetuated the cesspool from which evil grows. We share in the guilt of this fallen world.
In this place of understanding we recall with more awareness of their truth these words from the Apostle Paul:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen (Galatians 3:2-5, NRSV).
God’s grace and peace and rescue are most appreciated when we see the evil of this world and realize that we are part of it.
Dear God, help us more consistently live in Your way, shining Your light into this world of hurt.