A Pastor’s Response to the Washington Navy Yard Shooting

YouTube Preview ImageI’ve been struggling to know what to say, if anything, about the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. I could go on a rant about guns – can we all just agree that an AR-15 shouldn’t be in the hands of the general public? I could go on a rant about mental illness – we are nowhere on dealing with mental illness in this society. I could go on a rant about culture – shootings like this hardly even raise our pulse anymore as we become more and more inured to violence through TV, movies, video games, and media… but I don’t want to go on a rant about any of that stuff. So I haven’t written anything. I’ve been avoiding my own blog (not a good blogging strategy btw). I just haven’t known what to say. I want to write about hope, but it is sometimes hard to find a hopeful place from which to write.

This morning I ran across a little video that helped me find a hopeful place again (above). I hope you’ll take a moment to watch it and remember that your life matters, the little things you do or don’t do matter, and here’s why:

Christians believe that there will be a day when there is no more brokenness, no more selfishness, no more sin, death, or decay. There will be a day – somewhere off in the future – when the tears will be wiped from every eye, and brokenness will no longer have the final say in life, when the evil will not prosper, and the vulnerable will have enough to live and love and thrive and flourish.

The major difference between Christianity and every other religion – including a general spirituality – is that we believe this future has actually broken into current history through Jesus. We believe that the kingdom of God has come and is now coming. We believe that it is now possible to draw our life not from the past or present – where evil, violence, racism, selfishness, brokenness, pain, death, and decay rule the world – but from the future of God, where love rules the world. Because God’s future has broken into the present, it is now possible for us to embody that reality right now. That’s what it means to be a part of the church.

Nothing stands in the way of our being a little colony of heaven in a culture of hell.

Here’s the thing: You can never tell the meaning of a story until you get to the end. You cannot fully understand what is happening in the middle of a story until that story is over and you look back at everything that happened along the way. Only at the end can you understand what was happening the whole time, only then can you see the meaning of each small act or plot twist. Unless, the end of the story has somehow been anticipated in the middle of the story itself – that is Jesus.

As Christians we have been empowered to lament and wail and protest against the darkness of the world – against mass shootings and violence – and we do this without losing hope. We hope because we know that the end of the story has come rushing back into the middle of the story unleashing all of the power and meaning and understanding and grace and love that will one day be a full reality. There will be a day when brokenness no longer has the final say in our world. The reason we can live in hope is because we believe that future promise has invaded history through Jesus, has broken free and is on the loose in and among us (the church). We can be a part of the future of God anytime we want to. All we have to do is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. All we have to do is lose our life on behalf of the kingdom of God, and then we’ll find life. This is why we hope.

I believe in you, church. I believe that you can be that colony of heaven in a culture of hell. I believe that you can live like Jesus actually was who he said he was and did what he said he was doing. I believe that resurrection happens every single time we die to ourselves so that others might experience what heaven feels like. I believe that even though all around may throw their lot in with brokenness and violence and pain and death – we don’t have to.

Jesus’s characteristic sermon was not “here’s how to get up to heaven when you die.” His characteristic sermon was, “The kingdom of God is at hand!” The place where God is king, where God rules and reigns in our hearts… it has come to us. All that is left is for all of us to draw our life from that sure future, and not from the pain and evil of our present or past realities.

I’m thankful for this short video clip. I think it’s brilliant. It is, I hope, a symbol of how we all can respond to the brokenness of the  world.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • Paul Waters

    One of the best things I’ve read about a Christian response to pain and suffering. Thank you!


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