Choose Life

Time and the television have moved on from the tragedy that happened a week and a half ago. Taking place during Hanukah and very close to the Christmas season, some have welcomed the relief of the holidays to move their focus away from something so painful by concentrating on the season known for peace and joy. But, there are many who cannot leave the sadness and heartbreaking images behind. Those who are directly affected by this senseless carnage will always carry scars that this societal wound has inflicted upon them.
I was riveted to the TV, watching the developing story on a national news network. When it first broke, the reports changed often, and the full toll of this act of violence was unknown. But as the day wore on, the tragedy’s full impact was unbelievably distressing: 26 lives gone, 20 of them children. The perpetrator added the life of his mother and his own life to the total. As evidenced in the myriad number of interviews and accounts in the media, we, as a nation, were stunned once again; this was the worst elementary school shooting in the United States, and the second worst school shooting ever, topped only by the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Amidst thoughts and prayers for the families and the hurting community are these contemplations: “What changes need to take place in relation to gun control?” “Do armed guards and airport-quality detectors need to be a part of every school?” “What role do sadistic video games play in the lives of those who perpetrate such crimes?” “Where was God on December 14th in Newtown, CT?” “Is there even a God, and does He care?” “How in the world did this happen again in America?” These will be normal ponderings in the wake of such an event. It is at the core of every caring heart to get to the bottom of this matter of random and pointless violence. However, do these questions address the underlying problem in America and the world today?
As did many pastors on the Sunday following the incident, our pastor addressed the issue. He talked about our society as being immersed in a culture of death. One does not have to look much beyond his backyard to understand the claim. Oh yes, there are still good things happening around us, but too often they are marred and upstaged by road rage and robberies and street gang violence and shootings, and the list goes on and on. Life is no longer precious. Counter to God’s admonition to “choose life,” as a culture we choose death through the things we allow to entertain us, in some of the choices of convenience we make, and even in a few of the laws that have come into being to rule our land. It is through these choices that evil can and will get its foothold. Interestingly, this culture of death is as old as the fall of man, but it seems to be spiraling out of control and is coming ever closer to what one might imagine the setting will be when God says enough and closes out the era of earth and heaven as it presently exists.
So, what is the answer to this dilemma? How best can we choose life, and how do we allow it to guide and direct our steps in and through our walk in this world? As with all things with which we deal in life, the answer is found in the Word of God, and in this case, the Word itself is the answer. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it…The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 14 NIV.
As we allow the Word of God to truly become a part of us, the Lord’s light and life can penetrate our inner thoughts and guide our actions. We can make choices that reflect our close relationship with Him. His Word that is, “sharper than any double-edged sword, [that] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, [will judge] the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, NIV. Even if years pass, the Holy Spirit can bring to mind a verse or passage from Scripture that will lead us to make a valiant move, or deter us from making a foolish or costly one. The Word, Jesus, will not just dwell among us, but fully in us and make a significant impact on the darkness that is all around us. If only that young man had the Word of God saturating His inner being, would we be living in the shadow of so dark a tragedy as we are today?
Throughout this holiday known as the season of light, “Let Christ’s Word with all its wisdom and richness live in you. Use psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to teach and instruct yourselves about God’s kindness. Sing to God in your hearts. Everything you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Col 3:16-17, GWT. May this serve to provide to you and those around you a light-filled, joyful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
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