Before you start leaving nasty comments, I feel compelled to write this and let me say that my heart and prayers go out to the victims and the families, one of which was from right here in Crystal Lake, of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. I pray that they all find the healing for both their physical and mental needs.
I also believe that James Holmes should face the proper punishment for the crimes he has allegedly committed.
I want to tell you a personal story of a loss in my own life.
When I was in high school, my great aunt was brutally beaten and left for dead just outside her apartment door in San Francisco, California. The individual(s) somehow followed her into the secured building up to her apartment and pounced just as she opened the door. She was beaten so severely, that every bone in her face was broken. The attack was so heinous, it captured the attention of the entire city, including the mayor.
Her fighting soul kept her alive for nearly three weeks before her body finally gave in and failed her joyful spirit.
As my Dad flew out to deal with the funeral arrangements, my Mom, brother and I were left at home to struggle with coming to terms with the loss. We struggled to try to comprehend what had happened and why someone would do something so senseless. How could anyone have done this? My aunt, at the age of nearly 90, was still taking the bus and trolley all over the city and still taught Bridge twice a week. She had survived two previous muggings prior to this attack and escaped with only a broken arm. Why did this attack have to be so brutal?
I don’t remember the exact moment when my thoughts turned from grief to that of forgiveness. I knew my aunt was a Christian and I knew I would see her again one day in Heaven. I began to take a few minutes every night before drifting off to sleep to pray for the person or persons that committed this brutal act.
I prayed they would find it in their heart to realize what they had done. I prayed that God would bring someone into their life to show them the Love of God. Though I stopped many years ago praying for them every night, I still continue to pray for them to this day.
I tell you all that because I think as Christians we forget that when tragedies happen like that in Aurora, not only do the victims and their families need our prayers, but also the perpetrator and their family do as well. Just as the families of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in Columbine, and Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech shooter) are for ever changed by the acts of their children, the family of Mr. Holmes will forever have to endure the legacy of his actions. These people are victims too.
But our prayer should not stop there.
As I sat in church this weekend and as we prayed for the families and victims, I wondered why we were not following what Christ told us in Matthew 5:43-48.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We find it easy to pray for the victims, as it should be.
But being a follower of Christ is not always meant to be easy.
Through the pain, through the grief, through the anger, we are called to do the difficult thing, pray for our enemies.
There are several organizations across the country like Good News Jail & Prison Ministry of Eastern Nebraska/Western Iowa. These people do into the prisons and minister to the people incarcerated there. My dad has been volunteering with this organization nearly every Sunday for the last few years. These volunteers are bringing the Word and Love of God to the men and women whom many in society deem lost. These volunteers do not see these men and women, some have committed some heinous crimes themselves, as lost but children of God in need.
Is not the man that caused this pain to countless people also a child of God?
Whether severe mental illness or other willful act of evil, has he just strayed FAR from the path God has for him?
If God could still use a murderer like Moses or David in the Old Testament or Paul in the New Testament, is it so hard to fathom that God can still use a man like Mr. Holmes?
God’s mercy does not have limits.
Christ not only says pray for our enemies but just a few verses later, in the Lord’s Prayer, Christ tells us to Forgive those who trespass against us just as God has forgiven us (Matthew 6:12).
I know this can be difficult to do and I know that I have not been as gracious to those who have hurt me over the years, But, is our pain greater than the pain Christ suffered on the cross to wipe away our sins?
I encourage you in these coming days to continue to pray for ALL involved in this tragedy.