Mass Shootings and Bad Disciples

In the wake the recent mass shooting, I find myself silently judging all the jeremiads hammered out on keyboards and then slung out into the middle of the information superhighway.  This silent judgment is then swiftly followed by my own internal chastisement, “Oh yeah, Mr. Judgy-Judge McJudge-Pants?  And how are you contributing to a solution, sitting there sipping your re-heated coffee in the comforts of your first-world surroundings?”  And I think of all the suggestions people of both high and low positions have made and they all seem somewhat reasonable but ultimately not satisfying for a variety of reasons.

No more AR-15’sPeriod.

Better mental health screenings for gun-purchasers.”

Get the right judges on SCOTUS.”

Since all mass shooters are male, no more guns for male civilians.”

Ok… I made up that last one.  But a couple days have gone by and I think I have an action item we could all implement.  Pray for God to put bad disciples in your life.  Like one of my seminary profs said, “We all want good disciples.  We all want someone who hangs on all of our words and immediately puts our advice into practice.  We all love someone who thinks we are right about almost everything and tries to convince others that we are right.  But no one wants someone who listens to our advice and pretty much does the opposite.”  Boy oh boy, he was right.  I don’t want a disciple who bores me with inane babble about stuff that only three people in the world care about.  I don’t want someone as a disciple who ignores my advice, is lazy, is stubbornly foolish, who chews with their mouth open, or has bad body odor.outcast-katelynn-johnston

But if I only pursue the good disciples, it’s more about my comfort and my satisfaction, not love for my fellow human.  But if we learn to love bad disciples, then we might have to sacrifice something that we would get no return on.  Learning to love bad disciples might require us to change.  Learning to love bad disciples might help us know the mind of Christ better.

Maybe learning to love a bad disciple is how we get upstream with the next mass-shooter and save the next 17 victims.  Maybe it isn’t.  But getting credit for changing a life and preventing a future mass shooting isn’t the point either.  There will be no metrics attached to this action-item that some statistician somewhere can track.  No political body could ever point to something on the books and take credit for it.  This kind of action won’t make it into your newsfeed on Facebook.  But it’s what’s best for the outcast who feels alone.  It’s what’s best for the family who doesn’t know what to do with their brooding child.  It’s what is best for our communities where all sorts of people feel alienated with no real friends.

So let’s learn to pursue that awkward high-schooler we notice at church.  Ask them to lunch on a regular basis.  Ask that 18 year-old sitting by themselves on their phone if they could come over to help you change the oil in your car or help you rake your leaves.  Ask them questions and listen.  Wade through the awkward silences.  Endure the extensive talk about the latest thing they’re into.  Resist the urge to correct them right out of the gate.  Our first job is to listen and know them.  Pray for them (and their parent(s)!).  At the end of the day, we might not make a long-term friend or get much gratitude for our time and effort, but we will become an embodiment of our Lord who “…sets the lonely in families…” (Ps. 68.6).

 

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Friday morning ruminations

This is an excerpt from CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce, where an embittered ghost is arguing with the redeemed spirit of her brother:
‘It’s a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven’t I lived only for his memory all these years?’
‘That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.’
‘What was a mistake?’
‘All that ten years’ ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he’d left it; keeping anniversaries; refusing to leave that house though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.’
‘Of course they didn’t care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.’
‘You’re wrong. No man ever felt his son’s death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn’t against Michael they revolted: it was against you—against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past: and not really even Michael’s past, but your past.’
‘You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.’
‘It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian—like embalming a dead body.’
‘Oh, of course. I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.’
‘But of course!’ said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. ‘That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.’
Bitterness is a prison house you lock yourself in while you curse those who beckon you to use the keys you have in your hand. The keys aren’t labeled but they look a lot like repentance unto joy.