In the wake of the horrific Aurora, Colorado shooting the words of the Apostle Paul reaches across time to bring a measure of understanding to the madness. In his letter to the church in Rome Paul describes the heart of humankind apart from the grace of God. “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
When evil rises in such a pervasive and perverse way we are left to ponder its cause. Psychologists will line up to dissect and analyze the life of the shooter, pointing to telltale signs that might have revealed his approaching break with reality. They will lay the blame of this terrible crime at the feet of some kind of mental illness mainly because facing the fact that human beings are capable of such monstrous evil without being sick or under the influence of drugs is too much for us to bear.
Sociologists will point to the shortcomings of culture as the culprit. If only there had been someone for James Holmes to talk to, to share his burdens and bare his soul this could have been avoided. If only his silent cries for help had been heard by a world that rushed by too busy to listen. If only our video games, movies, and other violent forms of entertainment were censored, or saturated with love and not hate society wouldn’t, like a collective Dr. Frankenstein, have created this monster.
Second Amendment opponents will certainly trip over themselves running to the nearest media outlet to call for more laws against guns that, if passed, will merely turn law abiding citizens into outlaws and give outlaws another law to break. Gun control laws sound noble and they appear on the surface to be a quick fix to gun violence but a closer, more thoughtful look will see the obvious flaw in the logic. A law that makes his or her method a crime will hardly deter a person whose ultimate goal is to randomly take the life of innocent people.
Answering the why of James Holmes terrible crime is not difficult. It is the nature of fallen human beings to sink to our lowest passions. It was Paul who also tells us “the wages of sin is death.” If the story ended there we would be a hopeless people left with no choice but to wait for our own personal descent into the darkness of our own sin.
But Paul didn’t stop with the end result of sin. He added, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). As we mourn with the families of the victims of unbelievable evil we can take comfort in the incredible flipside of evil that we see in every evil act. At Columbine we saw the flipside of evil as young Cassie Bernall proclaimed her belief in God in the face of the evil that took her life.
On 911 we saw evil crash into our twin towers but on the flipside we saw courage running into the building while fear fled the scene. We saw evil hijack a plane and head for the White House or the Capitol intent on bringing more death and destruction. But on the flipside a brave group of passengers lined up behind Todd Beamer as he cried, “Let’s roll.”
In a Tucson, Arizona parking lot Daniel Hernandez became the flipside of evil when, in the middle of utter chaos, he cleared Gabrielle Giffords airway and applied pressure to her forehead to prevent her life from draining away into the asphalt.
As snapshots from the theater of horrors in Aurora begin to emerge we again hear and see the flipside of evil. The moment the shooting began three young men; Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves pushed their girlfriends to the floor and offered themselves as human shields. All three died to save the lives of their loved ones. In a moment they became the embodiment of Jesus words in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Thirteen-year-old Kaylan was attending the movie with five other people including six year old Veronica Moser-Sullivan. After the shots rang out Kaylan saw that Veronica was hit and she tried desperately to administer CPR but to no avail. Kaylan became the flipside of evil when she risked her own life to try to save Veronica.
From his hospital bed where he is recovering from three gunshot wounds at the hands of Holmes, Pierce O’ Farrell told nationally syndicated talk radio host Todd Schnitt, “I would like to talk to him (Holmes). I do forgive him.”
Once again we hear the words of Paul. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
When evil strikes we should mourn with and pray for those who are touched and caught up in its wake. But we must not wallow in the whys or wilt in the face of overwhelming grief. Evil always has a flipside that will lead us away from the bondage of bitterness and into the freedom of forgiveness that is found in our Lord Jesus Christ.