Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jesus, the Savior of the rejected

So I'm still grappling with what happened in Colorado and what would motivate someone to do such a thing. And I think about the kid in Omaha too and many, many others who turned their personal demons into another's hell. Quite common with nonsensical shootings like these are that the shooter is overwhelmed with a feeling of rejection.

Sunday morning, before seeing the news, I taught Sunday School to a group of 3rd graders. My lesson juxtaposed the sinful woman caught in adultery in John 8 with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7. When I present lessons from the Bible to this age group, I need to emphasize why the story I'm telling them is important. In this case, the lesson was how Jesus accepts anyone and everyone despite their sin and despite what religious leaders might say about it. A lesson certainly applicable today. There are a lot of religious leaders, Pharisees of this day and age, who are quick to condemn, quick to judge. But not Jesus. Jesus accepts. Jesus forgives.

I think about the modern parable (an oft-forwarded email, actually) of a young man in ratty clothes, long hair, piercings and tattoos who walks late into a Catholic Mass. The church is full and he can't find a seat and even where there is a seat available the looks from the parishioners made it clear he wasn't welcome. So without any other seats, he sat down right in the middle of the center isle. Of course, the priest had yet to come down the isle himself and everyone in the church was breathless with anticipation to see what he would do when he came to the young man. The organ stated the opening hymn as the priest and altar boys began down the isle. But no one sang along. All eyes were on the priest to see what he would do next. Noticing everyone's stares, the priest looked at the young man and...

sat down with him.

Maybe the young men involved in these shootings could relate to this young man. Maybe they could relate to the women described in the Gospels above. Maybe they never understood that Jesus would sit right down next to them, even if no one else would.

What makes this even more sad is that I know of ministries in and around Denver whose sole purpose is to reach out to the unaccepted, the rejected. The one that I think of first is Scum of the Earth. Yeah, you read that right. The name comes from 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, "To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." They say Matthew Murray came from a very religious family, so maybe he had no interest in finding a community that would accept him. But sources also say that he was once part of Youth with a Mission and was looking at enrolling in Colorado Christian College. So somewhere in his heart and soul there was a desire to reach out to God.

Now some will say it's arrogant for a Christian to say, "well, he just needed Jesus and this would've never happened." To that I can respond based on experience in ministering to addicts, that while Jesus forgives us there's no promise that he'll heal us. No doubt he can, but there will always be scars. We need to face and deal with the baggage we carry and lay it at the foot of the cross. If he "had Jesus" would this have been prevented? There's really no way of knowing. Did he "need Jesus"? Well, only Jesus knows the answer to that.

Instead of worrying about the arrogance of us Christians having all the answers, or of the eternal fate of the shooter, the focus should be on the victims. And to follow Jesus' example and forgive.

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