Not on my Watch!
“On earth peace to men on whom His favor rests…” Luke 2:14
How does one make sense of such senseless acts as the deliberate killing of innocent children in a school classroom? The evil that prowled the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday has shaken all of us. Those of us who are parents can only imagine the pain and anguish the parents of these murdered children must feel. The loss of a child at anytime is nearly unbearable, but like this…just before Christmas. This just should not be, and we all know it.
Yet it is. At a time when songs of ‘peace on earth’ and celebrations of the most miraculous event ever—the birth of the Christ-child—should dominate our lives, instead, our peace is invaded by the cries of mothers and fathers whose children have been ruthlessly stolen from them. Ceaseless tears interrupt our Christmas cheer. Questions of ‘why’ abound. And at the forefront of those questions is the big ‘why?’—why would God allow such madness and savagery? It doesn’t make sense, or does it?
We forget that the Prince of Peace came into this world amid similar barbarism. A twisted and evil savage named Herod murdered the toddlers of an entire town. Jesus knew that the forces of evil would stop at nothing to obliterate all that is good. That is why He reminded the disciples that we would have trouble in this world (Jn. 16:33). We do not have to look far to find examples of other Sandy Hook-like treacheries or worse in our world or our history. In moments of tragedy like this it may seem that peace on earth is nothing more than a meaningless religious cliche.
Yet, notice what the angels said: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” While evil has always been a reality of humanity, most of us can remember a time when peace seemed more real than the current tide of violence we now experience in our society. Many of us remember times when our parents did not worry about us playing in the neighborhood unsupervised, or walking to school on our own, or school shootings. So what has changed?
Have you noticed that there is one question that no one talks about in all the interviews and commentaries related to tragedies like the one Newtown? There is plenty of talk about guns and more security measures and what could motivate someone to do this, but no one I have heard has asked the question that goes to the heart of the problem. Our President rightly noted that there is too much of this kind of thing in our nation, but no one asks what is at the heart of these increasing patterns of violence and evil. Why has our nation lost the peace and relative security it once enjoyed? What has changed in our nation?
Anne Graham Lotz addressed this issue in an interview with Jane Clayson of the CBS Early Show shortly after 9/11. Clayson asked her, “I've heard people say, those who are religious, those who are not, if God is good, how could God let this happen? To that, you say?”
“I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, ‘God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace.’ And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life, removing his hand of blessing and protection. We need to turn to God first of all and say, ‘God, we're sorry we have treated you this way and we invite you now to come into our national life. We put our trust in you.’ We have In God We Trust on our coins. We need to practice it.”
Anne is right. God is angry about the evil in our world, yet as a nation we have told God He is not welcome, and so, as the apostle Paul notes, He has given us over to our depraved minds. And by the way, we’ve let this happen on our watch.
The angels made it clear that God’s favor and peace is promised for those on whom His favor rests—that is, the people or nation that honor Him, submit to Him, and give Him glory. Why should we expect the evil and violence to cease if we’ve decided we don’t need God anymore?
Now before we start pointing fingers, I would urge us, as grandparents, to ask ourselves where we have neglected our responsibility to guard the truth. We need to fall on our faces in repentance. Then, we need to get up and ask God to help us make much of Him by speaking the truth, living in love, and leading with compassion not only at Christmas, but all year. In the midst of this tragedy, let’s remind our grandchildren of the peace that Christ promises to those who receive His favor, and the consequences of losing His favor. Let’s choose to take this awful tragedy, over which God is still sovereign, and turn our hearts back to Him and His truth.
Encourage one another also with these words, “Take heart! I [Jesus] have overcome the world (John 16:33b).” Because of the Cross and Christ’s resurrection, we can enjoy a peace that passes all understanding, even in the midst of horrible tragedy. But that is not the end of the story. Christ guaranteed through His first Advent a second Advent (Coming) when He will establish His kingdom of peace in its fullness. In that day there will be no more tears or death or mourning or pain. If there is anything that ought to bring us joy at Christmas it is this truly Good News! Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
P.S.: Let us not neglect to pray for the families who lost their children or loved ones. Their pain is enormous. Let us pray for peace—for them in their agony, and for our nation.
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