The shootings in Aurora, CO, shock us once again. It is absolutely horrifying that someone plans that much detail just to kill as many people as possible. We will keep asking “Why” and the “why” may never come.
We will have conversations about gun control and violence and so many more things. Well, we won’t actually have any real conversations on those things… but we’ll fake it for a few weeks.
David Brooks in his column today tackles these types of conversations. Then, he aims deeper. He’s good at that. There are things I don’t agree with him on in this column (which is rare for me), but his main point is very… um… convicting. The need is for every one of us to pay attention to people around us. Not only pay attention, but respond to other people.
I think of Aurora, CO, and other spree killings. The response of people who knew the killer is almost always the same: They were quiet. They kept to themselves. They seemed pleasant.
We are reading the Gospel of Mark this week in our church as part of our “Eat This Book” project. There are two episodes that stand out as I think about the Aurora shootings and how we react. Both of them deal with men who were demon possessed. One was in the synagogue (Mark 1:21-28) and the other was the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:1-20). These stories always intrigue me… and they always convict me.
In the synagogue is a man who had been tormented by demons for who knows how long and no one had done anything about it until Jesus showed up. They had tolerated the man. He probably wasn’t as demonstrative as the Gadarene demoniac. You know… he was quiet. He kept to himself. He was pretty introverted. He was quirky.
Something like that.
The Gadarene demoniac was another story altogether. Yet, the people were more afraid after Jesus healed him. They wanted Jesus out of their territory. They recognized something more powerful was in their presence and they preferred the crazy man they could contain somewhat to the Savior who was not going to be controlled by them at all.
The conviction in my own heart out of these stories, especially in the first story is that someone who was tormented was among “the people of God” and they did nothing. It was only when Jesus walked in that things “got out of hand,” but then the man was healed.
Brooks’ point at the end of his column is something we need to hear as the Church today. Pay attention to people. That means it’s not about us! That means we find out what is going on in the lives of others and respond to their presence in our lives.
In other words… we ARE our brothers’ keeper.
And that makes us uncomfortable.
I will bet money everyone who knew of James Holmes was just fine with him being quiet, keeping to himself, and being a little quirky. It meant it required nothing of them. It meant they could go on with their lives while he went on with his life.
I know that’s how I feel too much of the time. I have to confess my own laziness here. There are times when I need to be stretched. I need to reach out to someone. I need to have them tell me their story. But I want to be alone, or I want to keep moving on in my own life. I am too content to simply pray for them quickly as I think of them while I’m driving. The answer may be that I need to pick up the phone and call them. I may need to spend a few minutes listening to their story.
It’s not to stop a spree killer. It’s to let someone know that Someone is watching over them. Someone knows they are there. They matter.
If we will just pay attention, we may save someone from the silent torment they face every day. It won’t make headlines. It won’t be a great Facebook posting. It will simply matter in the Kingdom of God.