Us and Them

The events of the last few weeks involving violent tragedies in a supermarket in Buffalo, NY and a school in Uvalde, Texas have left our nation in a state of shock and dismay. Certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims of this horrific and continuing evil. With the Psalmist, we cry out, "How long, O Lord! How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" In the face of such meaningless violence and loss, our hearts are broken.

The litany of senseless violence here in America gives us pause to wonder. What is wrong with the soul of humanity in our times? What cultural sickness is infecting the souls of young men, the usual perpetrators of these crimes, leading them to such acts of desperation and unfocused rage? What cancerous cells of irrationality, fear and hatred are growing beds of destruction around us unbeknown? And what role do we play in this tragic drama. These are some of the questions confronting us.

While our politicians point the finger at one another and draw ideological lines in the sand, our children remain at risk, our churches, synagogues, movie theaters, concert venues, supermarkets and Walmarts remain vulnerable to the next random act of violence. The unfocused randomness of such incidents leaves none of us feeling safe no matter how many security systems we install. Chaos is unleashed upon the world.

In the face of such chaos, we have several options. Some of us will choose to avoid looking into the void of these horrific events taking a "thank God that wasn't me approach" to dealing with such tragedies. Others will take a fatalist approach saying "if it's my time to go, so be it" at the thought of being a victim of such violence. Both of these approaches seek to deny the true communal impact of such evil. If it doesn't affect me, they say, it's not my concern. So, I will continue to think as I think and do as I do as long as this doesn't disrupt my life.

Others will look squarely at the void caused by such violence and seek to blame others that they deem to be the true culprits. The heart of the problem is the Other. The problem is Them - an unfocused Them that is as random as the victims of these violent events. Surely the Other is the cause of modern chaos. If we can control the Other we can rid the world of evil.

Intuitively, we know neither of these paths have a chance of preventing future incidents of meaningless mass violence. They simply provide us ways of coping with the intrusion of chaos into our otherwise peaceful lives.

We the church have no clear answers to the cause of human evil beyond our doctrines of sin and brokenness. We know and confess each week that we as a common humanity are in bondage to sin and chaos. But we know we are not alone in our chaos. We look to God to bring order out of our chaos knowing it was God's power at the creation of the world that created order out of chaos in the first place.

We know God provides us with a third option in the face of devastating human evil. When we stop avoiding the problem and blaming others, we are able to look into our own hearts and the hearts of other broken people with faith and discover God at work recreating us, changing us, and replacing our turmoil with grace, peace and love. It is our best hope in the face of continuing human evil.

When we share the ordering grace we find in our broken hearts with other broken people, we unleash God's ability to bring order out of chaos once again.

In the face of our troubled times, His grace shared seems to be our greatest communal option.

May God's grace, peace and love be with you and the people of Buffalo and Uvalde!

Pastor Frank
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