This week the Faith in Memphis panel reflects on the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo.
Anger. Despair. Compassion. These are some of the emotions swirling in my heart after last week’s shooting in Aurora, Colo. Though a long ways from Memphis, the shooting even touched my congregation. A seventeen-year old related to a friend of a member of our church was gunned down that night.
Volumes could and should be written about similar emotions swirling in God’s heart. Nothing moves God more than the suffering of the innocent.
Pages will be written about gun-control, social responsibility and mental illness in the wake of the massacre. These are important debates.
But I’d like to touch on a different matter. One that’s not on most people’s radar screen. One that seems to be near the bottom of talking points—if it’s on the list at all. But one worthy of mention. Here it is: What’s our response to the shooter?
Regarding the victims, our response is obvious. The Christian faith of those closest to Aurora will be measured by their generosity to those targeted by the bullets. A litmus test of the authenticity of their faith will be their love for those who’ve lost so much.
But for weeks I’ve been immersed in the Sermon on the Mount. And though I still find it distasteful, I can’t escape one litmus test which Jesus raises: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. For Jesus, this seemed to be one of the defining traits of his movement. The tell-tale sign of people who truly followed Jesus was their willingness to love those who deserved to be loathed.
So, let love flow like the mighty Mississippi toward every survivor, family member and friend touched by this murderer. Let blessing fall like rain on each rescuer and responder. And may each Christian who has opportunity prove his/her faith by becoming vehicles for this love and blessing.
But around the blogosphere, in the pews, at the gym and at the lunch-table let grace and mercy color what we say about James Holmes. And may those of us who don’t have “skin in the game” imitate one who did. Though shot three times by Holmes, Pierce O’Farrill’s response was this: “Of course, I forgive him with all my heart… The first thing I want to say to him is ‘I forgive you,’ and the next is, ‘Can I pray for you?
O’Farrill has became the gospel-in-miniature. Loving those who are loathed. There’s no greater response.