My heart has been broken with the recent tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut.
Words are hard to come by and emotions are hard to control.
I am holding on to this promise for them that, “God is close to the broken hearted and he lifts up those who are crushed in spirit.”
The closest way I can explain how I am feeling is what Jeremiah recorded in the ninth chapter of his book: “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”
I told my church over the weekend that I was thankful for them because we could grieve and pray together, in community, for the families, leaders and people of Newtown.
It really struck me how important being a part of a healthy community is.
The Apostle Paul gave this wisdom to the Romans when he said, “Rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Mourn with those who are mourning.”
We stay in dark places when we grieve alone.
Something supernatural and healing happens when we grieve in community. It is hard to explain, but I felt it this weekend.
Many in Newtown have expressed how knowing the nation and the world is grieving and praying with and for them has helped their wounded, stunned hearts.
But there is something else about being a part of a healthy community that is very important.
The healthier the community, the less of these kinds of tragedies will happen.
Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity has stated that, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.”
Yet, many communities are not whole or healthy.
While people are more concerned about their own “bottom line” and cities wanting the “homeless” to go somewhere else, communities will not be whole or healthy.
While the media continues to exploit children with violence and sex and the philosophy of the day is to incarcerate rather than rehabilitate, communities will not be whole or healthy.
With the low prioritization of the mentally ill and the ignorance the impact that broken families have on social and economic health, communities will not be whole or healthy.
If we keep thinking that technology is the answer while people have never been more isolated and lonely, communities will not be whole or healthy.
And if we continue to be a nation of “survival of the fittest”, even though the scriptures tell us to “love the least of these”, communities will not be whole or healthy.
Charles Dickens said a long time ago, “Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.”
There is a lot of discussion about what “laws” do we need to change to make sure this never happens again.
We don’t need more laws, we need face to face “soul encouragers” helping those in their community who are hurting and struggling to be “brave and true.”
Laws divide and polarize and keep us from getting to the heart.
Jesus didn’t come to change laws, he came to change hearts.
I don’t have any problem debating whether we need better, more or less gun laws. I like a good debate and I think they can be enlightening for both sides.
But thinking laws will solve this complicated, multi-layered issue is like talking about what size of rain gutters should I get while a category 5 hurricane is approaching my house.
This is also not about trying to go back to the ‘good old’ days.
The rhetoric of going back to the ‘good old’ days is a weak argument, since the ‘good old’ days were full of racial bigotry and women having few rights.
This is not about going back, but rather moving forward.
This is about moving forward towards different priorities.
This is about a high level commitment and understanding how important community is. To paraphrase William James, “A community is only as strong as its weakest link and life, after all, is all about community.”
We cannot continue to live in our locked up homes, thinking that if we don’t look out our window, then we are safe and not responsible for what we do not see.
This is a dangerous lifestyle and it compromises healthy communities. Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We must move forward committing our lives to the greater whole.
We must move forward to a new way of living.
Where a child’s protection will trump a companies profits.
Where a forgotten senior citizen is remembered and celebrated.
Where the homeless are befriended and empowered.
Where the rich learn from the poor.
Where the single mom is valued and lifted out of poverty.
Where the addict is embraced and equipped towards recovery.
Where the mentally ill are understood and assisted.
Where broken families are given tools to help them repair.
Where everyone in the community is treated equally, with deep respect.
Where everyone is on “common ground.”
It is what the scriptures call JUSTICE.
We must move forward.
“You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.” Isaiah 58:12