I feel like I’ve been weeping on and off all week. NPR’s coverage of the Las Vegas shooting featured several moving reflections by love ones of some who died. Closer to home, a flurry of deaths of church friends and a cousin’s father….
“...mourn with those who mourn” encouraged Paul in the twelfth chapter of his letter to the Romans. That's the chapter that begins with the oft-quoted “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”(see Romans 12:2 and 15b, NIV). .
This letter is one of most taught in the Bible - how redeemed people live - “by grace...not thinking themselves more highly than they ought...in Christ they, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others...offering each other gifts from the Holy Spirit for building each other up… so that they love sincerely, hate evil, clingto good, honor one another, practice hospitality…” (see Romans 12)
If Las Vegas shooter Steven Paddock had any of this going on, he wouldn’t have done what he did. More than likely, a few of those he murdered were believers. And even though their passage from mortality means they are now face to face with the Lord, mourning for them is entirely in order.
Mourn with. Living in Christ doesn’t prevent but engages mourning. Mourning is part of the fullness of life John 10:10 heralds Christ as assuring for all those who receive him as Lord.
Why God created our mortal state beings is anyone’s guess. While both immortal and mortal beings share the will to receive or reject God’s invitation for relationship with him, we mortals live out our choices in a “worldly” realm that is shaped by how we chose that God allows even though most choose to turn away from him (see Matthew 7:13-14).
That God allows mortals to receive or reject him and then to live out the consequences of our choices seems a perilous experiment indeed. Only in Christ do we learn that we all fail to merit God’s favor.
Each of us deals with life setbacks or disappointments differently. Often, we try harder. Las Vegas shooter Steven Paddock gave himself over to the evil lurking in his soul. God’s guidance is to admit our vulnerability and unworthiness and submit to his mercy.
God’s only mercy road goes through Jesus Christ who emphatically stated, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me..” (John 14:6, NIV)
But even Jesus mourned the passing of his friend Lazarus (see John 11:35) while declaring, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, ESV).
We long for a life of comfort, ease and happiness, but life is often and unavoidably difficult, hard, and troublesome. While believers are not spared any of this, God walks every step with us, providing strength to endure and to overcome every adversity and enemy.
Said Jesus, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33b, NIV). In return for obedience, God promises in Exodus to be an enemy for his people’s enemies (Exodus 23:22, ESV).
Overcoming trouble, not avoiding it. And while we may still suffer at the hands of our enemies, foes engaging us now take on God as well. (“For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” - James 2:13).
Faith is the key to trusting the Lord, a big idea that is both mysterious and wondrous to behold - “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)
While God doubters and detractors dismiss faith as fluff, it’s actually the only evidence God accepts as eligibility for his kingdom. Each of us will have that day but until we do, we mourn with those who mourn.
For lovers of the Lord, the highest form of mourning is for those who nurtured our own lives in Christ. These now enjoy what we all ultimately long for - full union with our precious Lord.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV)
One day, death and mourning will forever cease. (see Revelations 21:4). Until that day, let us fully engage to mourn with those who mourn.