On April 20th, 1999 I was a junior in high school when the Columbine school shooting happened in Littleton, Colorado. Our civics teacher heard about it and turned on the television and allowed our class to watch the media’s response and the news unfolding. I remember wondering how someone my age could be capable of such destruction.
In the past 10 years America has averaged almost 90 school shootings a year.
Every day 12 children die from gun violence in America.
Every day an additional 32 children are injured by gun use.
Guns are the leading cause of death among American children.
This is not a post about gun rights or why you should vote with your political party’s views. This is not a post on why God should be inserted into public schools. This is not a post about why parents need to monitor their child’s video game usage.
This is a post letting you know that gun violence is not going away and with that, neither are school shootings.
What is a follower of Jesus supposed to do in light of these school shootings?
What do we say?
What do we do?
How do we pray?
First, we mourn
This month I’ve been putting the work in to memorize Romans 12:9-18. In the middle of these verses Christians are called to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
Every school shooting brings mourning. I have tears for the families who have dead children, who have dead siblings, who have a dead parent, who have dead friends and prayer for a community living in fear and shock.
Jesus taught us to bring to Him whatever burdens we have (Matthew 11:28) and He also told us to protect children (Luke 18:16), so when school shootings happen, I take time to mourn.
I also mourn over the shooter and their family.
The posts you see of, Enough is enough and It shouldn’t be this way and Jesus, please come, all of it is people attempting to mourn.
This morning I looked through the pictures of the fourth graders and the teachers that were murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas yesterday and I wept. It’s a lot of brokenness and it needs to be released to God or you will carry it and it will leak out of you in unhealthy ways all over those in your daily life.
Christians are called to be light in a dark world and before we can pour into others, we must empty ourselves out to God and allow Him to fill us with His goodness.
Second, we talk about it in our family
Writing a post of your feelings on social media and sharing news articles is not enough. Hearing devastating news and moving on with your life is not the answer either. Christians know they need to respond so they post but in a week they forget about it and yet the feelings of anxiety and heartache are still lurking within them.
Death is a reality. In our family we talk about death a lot. My older two children have had a grandfather die and three siblings die. They will have other family members die. They will have friends die. We openly talk about the fact that we are not promised tomorrow, that every day is a gift from God and I make sure they know how I pray they would continue to live if I were to suddenly die. I have letters addressed to each one of my children and my wife for them to read if I were to die today.
When it comes to school shootings, I want my children to hear the news from me and their mother. They might hear it from friends at school and then be hit with anxious feelings and then left with unhealthy thoughts for the remainder of the day. If they hear it from myself or their mother, the anxious feelings will be there but we can also hold hands and pray and remind them that even though there is evil in this world, Jesus has overcome it and our family trusts in God’s plan for our lives no matter what.
Some children will need multiple conversations to help them process the news.
Third, we invest in generational faithfulness
The church I currently serve in prioritizes 15% of our annual budget to our next generation ministries (birth-12th grade programming). The average church puts 6% of their annual budget into next generational ministry.
Getting children back in church is not the end-all answer, but it is a part of what is the solution to the brokenness how school shootings happen: generational faithfulness.
Generational faithfulness is when the grandparents are Christians, the parents are Christians and the grandchildren are Christians and so on and so on. It’s where a love for Jesus gets passed on to each rising generation in a church and a community.
Christians know the answer to school shootings being a thing of the past is Jesus. There is no other answer.
Show me every single murderer/terrorist who chose to end the lives of innocent children and teachers and I will walk you through their family tree and how Jesus was not a part of it.
Some children will need multiple conversations to help them process the news.
Generational faithfulness involves three things:
Emotional Maturity (the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23)
Repentance (Romans 2:4)
Prayer (Philippians 4:5-7)
As a parent, I am praying and instilling these three areas into the hearts, minds and actions of the children God has entrusted me to influence. I want the Spirit to grow them emotionally. I want to also model emotional maturity for them. I want them to be humble and admit when they have sinned or have hurt others so I model repentance and apologize to them and talk of my sin that Jesus has fully forgiven. I want them to be people who pray to God, when they are nervous and when they see pain in the lives of those around them.
On top of how our family functions, keeping them active in a loving, biblical church that will come alongside my kids and help them grow in emotional maturity, repentance and prayer is such a gift. This is generational faithfulness.
Every single shooter who chose to act in violence and murder students and teachers was once a child.
When I see people sharing, We can do better, they’re talking about our government. These shootings are not on our government. They are on the church. The church has got to get better at generational faithfulness.
Fourth, we seek reconciliation with those we have personally hurt
Jesus shares with us in His Sermon on the Mount that the ending of physical life, murder, is on the same serious line as sinful anger (Matthew 5:21-26).
Hopefully you and I would never give in to such evil when it comes to participating in a mass shooting. Surely we would not end the life of another. But we do say words that hurt and we choose actions or inaction that divides and we remain prideful and unforgiving. We have participated, not in ending lives, but in ending relationships.
May we be as broken over our own lack of reconciliation as we are about the victims and their families of school shootings.
Growing up in church I remember singing a worship song entitled, “All Who Are Thirsty”.
The words went like this:
All who are thirsty
All who are weak
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the streams of life
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of His mercy
As the deep cries out to deep
(We sing) Come, Lord, Jesus, Come
As deep cries out to deep
Each time our church would sing the refrain, As the deep cries out to deep, I did not understand what it was talking about.
Psalm 42:7 says, Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all waves have gone over me.
The context of Psalm 42 is a longing for someone to save the writer and his people from their enemies, from exile and from distress. Psalm 42 is the same chapter where the writer longs after God like a deer panting for water (Psalm 42:1).
It’s a psalm where the pain is so thick and the heartbreak is so heavy, there are only a few words to say and maybe even no words to say, but the One Who hears the cries, He understands the heaviness.
So when the writer says, Deep calls out to deep, it’s him saying the deep sorrow of his soul is calling out to the deep love of His Savior.
And that’s where I am today after another school shooting. The hurtful longings I have are calling out to a Savior Who continues to bring healing and purpose out of intense sorrow.
My responsibility today is not to be a better American.
My task is to lean on the Spirit to grow into the likeness of my Savior more each day.
Talk about it.
Invest in generational faithfulness.
Thanks for reading. Know you are so loved.