Virginia Tech Massacre

On the Virginia Tech Shooting:
April 2007…

I just added Cho Seung-Hui to my Word spell-check dictionary.

He doesn’t deserve such recognition. It’d be better if, for years to come, whenever anyone typed his name in any document, it would promptly be underlined with red.

But people will be writing about him for decades, though likely not with the spin he was hoping for.

Apparently, he thought himself a martyr. In the videotaped manifesto he mailed to NBC, he associates himself with the boys from Columbine. With rotting hatred he blames every person caught up in the culture of the day. People like you and me. People with laptop computers, email addresses, cars that run, and dreams to pursue. All said, Cho insists it is our fault that all those students are dead.

And on this point he is right. He is right in the abstract.

But in the specific, he is very wrong.

Make no mistake; Cho Seung-Hui is a murderer, not a martyr.

But it is true that we all share in the eventual breakdown of humanity, and the destruction of creation. Not in his act specifically, but in our disposition corporately.

It is true that each of us has blood on our hands.

It is true that we all contribute somehow to the cause of this effect.

And we are not excused from our own sin just because he was the one who pulled the trigger, over and over again.

Does it hurt yet?

We are quick to categorize, aren’t we? Cho is a creature unlike us. We could never do what he did. Our hearts are not so bent.

Ah, but our Story says otherwise. Our story claims that were it not for the fear of consequences enforced by civil law, we might all very easily be predisposed to crimes of such magnitude.

And more profoundly, apart from the redemptive work begun by God in Christ (and promised from before the beginning of all time), manifested in individual hearts and corporate communities, we would end in a royal bloodbath for sure. For the bent to have our way, the demand to be paid heed to, the ache to be respected – even loved – unchecked, would drive us all to take matters into our own hands.

And our hands would drip with blood.

Yet perhaps a royal bloodbath is precisely what we need, but of a very different kind.

Royal as in the Kingly kind. Blood as in the blood of Christ.

Perhaps what disturbs me as much in Cho’s words as I am grieved by his actions, is his violently flawed interpretation of the life and death of Christ, as paralleled by his own:

“Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.”

Cho died hating those he killed. Cho brought death.

Christ died loving those who killed him. Christ brought life.

Big difference.

We don’t need Cho’s revolution; we need Christ’s.

If it is a bloodbath we need, it is the life-giving blood of Christ. His is the death and revolution we need. Blood that not only covers us in forgiveness, but blood that pulses through us in life-giving, world-transforming, life-change.

In the end, Cho is responsible for his crimes just as we are responsible for ours. And the greatest crime of all time, the crime for which the blood is indeed on our hands, is the rejection of the God who loves us as God loves us in Christ.

Accepting Him is receiving His life and accepting His ways – perpetual re-creation through self-sacrificial love.

Love that gives life. Not hate that takes it.

Love that takes the bullet. Not hate that pulls the trigger.

We watch the news and we wake up to the world that is. It is broken. There is real evil here. Left unchecked and unrestrained in any of us it would wreak the eventual destruction of life. It happens every day. And what is done cannot be undone. But what may otherwise become the inevitable end in any situation can be avoided – the story rewritten – by the simple but sustained invasion of heavenly presence in and through the lives of those who belong to God. We go to Him to be saved from our own darkness, and then we participate in the dawning of His kingdom here. Simple, faithful acts of kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, and appropriate and well-timed truth-telling can rewrite a person’s story from one of destruction to one of deliverance. I am watching this happen this week.

A week or two prior to Easter, a friend of mine confessed to me his fantasies of murder. He had been hurt before. He felt altogether unloved (though this may not have been an actuality, it was true in his mind).

A vague suicide note months before had landed him in a mental-psyche ward for three days and an incurred bill of $3000 for what he suggested was liability reasons. He determined never to mention his fantasies or suicidal thoughts to a professional ever again. But he was willing to do so with me. He needed to talk it out. He needed someone to hear the person beneath the pain.

He confessed serial killer tendencies. Days later he had strung up an extension cord.?Ǭ† Wrote the note. Called me in a last-ditch S.O.S. Acknowledged recently that had he easy access to firearms, someone would’ve been dead. I opted out of an Easter Service band rehearsal to pick this guy up and drive around a Minneapolis lake for three hours while he stabilized and made specific plans to make it through another day. Spent most of the time listening and loving. Spoke proactive truth when it seemed appropriate to do so. I have no doubt that death was prevented that night.

But this was not an isolated incident of redemption. Ten years ago this friend left the church in a spiteful rage. He systematically isolated himself from every Kingdom representative he had ever known. He tried to do the same with me, but I wouldn’t let him. He was my friend, and I loved him, after all. The culmination of ten faithful years of sustained (though not consistent in measure) presence in his life was realized in that evening by the lake and in the daily interaction in weeks that followed. There is now this day the evidence of unfolding redemption in his story.

The potential shedding of blood in and by his life was prevented by the preemptive shedding of Christ’s blood on Calvary. Christ’s selfless love saved me, inspired me, and empowered me to play a part in Christ’s salvation brought to this broken world.

So this causes me to ask a question regarding Virginia Tech: where were God’s people in Cho’s life? Where were the Kingdom representatives? Not all evil can be prevented in this world, but it can be curbed. We do not know of the violence that goes unrealized in the otherwise destructive lives of those who’ve been redeemed by God. How many of us are there in the Kingdom today that might have been perpetrators of these very deeds were it not for the redemption Christ has already brought (and is currently bringing) through our lives?

Never underestimate “unnoticed” acts of kindness. Never assume the little you can do makes no difference. Indeed, Christ knows the force of the revolution He has begun. Let us trust Him to do what He does greatly through that which we can do but feebly.

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