Thoughts on Connecticut: For All the Little Ryleys

Posted: December 16, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The events of Friday morning in Connecticut were profoundly disturbing to me, more so than any of the random acts of brutality that have become all too common in today’s world. I think it has ripped my heart out for two reasons.

First, in this situation, many of the victims were under 10 years old. I am 50 years old but do not as of yet have any grandchildren. However, there is one five-year girl at my church that is my little sweetheart. In a sense, she is my adopted grandchild. Ryley Sloan has taken to me and she runs to me every time she sees me at church. She wants to go home with us every Sunday. If this sweet adorable girl were shot and killed by someone I would be grieved beyond belief. Ryley is my little sweetheart because she has this wide-open wide-eyed innocence that is infectious to all those who come in contact with her. She is not jaded by experience. She is not embittered from a difficult life. She is just happy. She has joy. To cut that little ball of energy’s life would slice me to the core.

Second, my oldest daughter is a school teacher. Meghan teaches at an elementary school in Pickens County. She could have been gunned down protecting her children like I know that she would do. She loves teaching. She loves her kids. They get on her nerves at times just as any teacher will tell you. But, I know in my heart that Meghan would give her life for these kids as some of the teachers and administrators did in Newtown, CT. Being a teacher is a calling and she has the bug. To think of having my oldest daughter’s life taken away in this manner is a numbing thought. To lose my Meghan, and to lose her in that way, would be absolutely devastating.

I think that each of us has reacted similarly. Either you have children still at home that causes you to think along these same lines. Possibly you have a child that is 5-10 years old and I can only imagine the chills that these events have caused you. Maybe you have grandchildren. We all share these feelings of innocence shattered. We all ask why these innocent, beautiful children were taken from their families at the hands of a disturbed young man.

After having two days to process all of this there are several things that have burned into my heart. First, the gun control debate has its extremes on both sides but the fact that both sides have jumped all over Facebook espousing their positions and I have repeatedly said that now is NOT the time. Heck, I have even been accused of being anti-gun because of this. Second, both sides of gun control debate are arguing on the wrong of the debate. We should be debating what happens before hand guns are used. All of this discussion should lead us to see that now is the time for Christ followers to become bold, to take the gospel to the streets, to loosen the foothold that evil has on our world.

The first thing that I would like to discuss is the nature of this whole gun control debate. First, let’s get this straight. I am neither pro-gun or anti-gun. My posts on Facebook have been solely asking for restraint for the moment in making the events of Friday into a gun control debate. Yes, it was directed at those who typically jump on Facebook as soon as any multiple death shooting occurs and starts shouting about our inalienable right to own guns. Typically, you do not hear this from the anti-gun lobby or maybe I just don’t have any anti-gun Facebook friends. My issue is not about the fact that these people support unrestricted gun ownership but rather having respect for the dead. Posting that an average of 18.5 people are killed in mass shootings when only the police are armed compared with 2.2 people being killed when armed citizens are the first responders. The savings of 16.3 lives is supposed to be impressive. Any loss of life whether 2.2 or 18.5 is too many. However, this sentiment is callous when you consider that there are parents grieving the loss of their own “little Kylies” or their “teacher daughters”. It is just as inconsiderate to for M.A.D.D. supporter to hand out flyers at a funeral for a child killed by a drunk driver. There will be a time for the debate over guns. Now is not the time. Posting a quote from Penn Jillete, an admittedly outspoken atheist, about governments taking away our rights (a reference to gun ownership) is off point. As a result, I have been accused of being anti-gun. Although I do not own a firearm and have no intentions of owning one, I do not oppose your owning a gun to defend your home. My point is simply that we should be plastering Facebook with prayers for the families of the victims. We should be celebrating the short lives of 20 children. We should be celebrating the self-less acts of teachers and administrators some of whom who lost their lives. We should be celebrating the love these teachers have for their children. We should be celebrating the wonderful moments that our five year olds have us rolling in the floor laughing and them not knowing why they made us laugh so hard. The gun debate can wait. Let’s let these grieving parents bury their children. Let’s support their needs. Let’s honor their children’s memories. Every one of them has a “little Ryley”. There are husbands burying “their Meghan” school teachers.

The second point is that we as Christ followers should see that the anti-gun/pro-gun argument is the wrong end of the argument for us. When we are talking about protecting ourselves from evil or getting the guns off the street to prevent evil people from having guns, it is similar to arguing about what to do with the horse running around when the real problem is that we forgot to shut the barn door. We hide behind the argument of gun control and have forgotten our responsibility as Christ followers. We live in a fallen world – a world that needs our help. People in Connecticut and here in our own communities are often so lost, so far removed from God that they feel drawn to solve their problems in brutal ways. It is events like this past Friday that should be a clarion call for us as Christ followers to get off the couch. Get out in our neighborhoods. Get to know our neighbors one person at a time. Learn who they are. Develop relationships. Share the gospel with them once we have developed relationships. If there is hurt, people are susceptible to the evil ways of Satan. If people are hungry, people are susceptible to the evil ways of the devil. If people are lonely, they are prone to hear that deceptive call of the evil one. If people do not know Scripture, they are easily misled by the father of all lies. If they do not know grace through Jesus Christ, they will listen to Satan’s words that they are hopelessly mired in sin … why not dive deeper into it. They listen to the devil’s voice saying that killing is OK. This is where we should be focus our arguments. We should be arguing about the best ways to reach the lost. We would should be attacking evil at its source with love. Before someone decides to take another life in anger, hopelessness, should we, as Christ followers, already have been in their life – one or more of us. By saying that evil exists, we are not to resign ourselves to it and do nothing. We are to love the unloveable. We are to get out of our comfort zones and touch the untouchable. If we each reach out to one or two people that are outside our comfort zones over the next year, we can make a difference one person at a time. We do the same the next year. Each of us.

Being saved by grace comes with responsibility to spread the word of the good news. Being saved by grace is not something that we should keep to ourselves. Why do you think that God has not already ended the world? He wants everyone to have a chance to reconcile themselves to Him through Christ Jesus. How do we best honor the memories of these precious little children – to show the love of Christ to a dying, miserable, evil world? I pray that we together as Christ followers can do this? I pray for the day that we have spread the gospel so well that Jesus will weep with joy. So well that we see no need to defend ourselves – because we don’t have to! Call me and idealist and it’s impossible. Five years ago Lifesong Church did not exist but someone thought it possible to do the impossible. Is that not what Christ calls us to do – to change the world through love? To love our enemies. To turn our pitchforks into plowshares. To not live by the sword. To sacrifice everything for the jewel of great price? We are to be proactive not reactive. Shouldn’t seek ways to change the world from the inside out and not withdraw from it and resign ourselves that it is evil and do nothing? Let’s us join together and meet the world and share God’s love with it.

We owe to each of our own little Ryleys. We owe to each of our own teacher daughters. We owe it to the kids of Newtown, CT. We owe it to their teachers. We honor their memory through spreading the love of Christ to the fallen world that caused their death. In that way, we honor God. We defeat Satan!

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