As I was getting ready for work today I watched, or more listened, to the coverage of the Santa Fe shooting. The news anchors were doing what news anchors do, covering the victims' family stories, profiling the shooter, discussing the cry for gun control, and talking about how tragic this all was. They're right, it is very tragic on many levels. However, while Facebook explodes with armchair pontification from people like me, my thoughts went to another place. My thoughts stayed mostly on the shooter. Not that I wasn't deeply saddened for the victims, because I am. I can't even imagine what their parents are going through right now. One mother felt as though her daughter was the main target because she had dismissed the shooter's romantic advances in the past. The heartbreak she is feeling now is beyond the scope of my understanding.
What crossed my mind regarding the shooter and the situation in general was a sobering, saddening thought. This isn't getting any better, it's getting worse, more frequent, and seemingly with less and less provocation. What crossed my mind is that my children, the ones who are left in this age range, and my grandchildren, are growing up in a world where this is the norm, not the exception. Shootings are driving a new industry that travels to teach school aged children how to defend themselves with desks, books, and pencil bags. Our world, like the hearts of men, is dark and growing darker all the time.
I thought about how do we reach the kids like this? The schools can't fix this. The government can't fix this. Only the High King of Heaven can fix this. We, as the church, the image-bearers of the Most High, must figure out a way to bring His peace to this dark and lonely place. He is the only thing that can make this any better, and the rub is, it probably wont get better as a whole, but it can get better for some. We must be on the lookout for the lonely, the discarded, the hurting, and be the Light to them in this dark and weary place.
Everyone is hitting social media with thoughts like, "if we hadn't kicked God out of schools, perhaps this wouldn't be happening." Perhaps. However, this issue isn't coming from the schools, and I don't think the answer lies in the schools, either. Sure, arming teachers may or may not help in the moment. Sure, bringing prayer back in might help expose students to morsels of truth, but to think that a daily prayer on the loudspeaker would somehow single-handedly stem the tide of this level of darkness seems a bit odd to me. However, appealing to the Creator is our hope. The problems isn't our schools, and that's not what punched me in the face this morning. It was this:
We must prepare and train our children to live and survive in a depraved post-modern world with redefined norms where school shootings, gender confusion, victimization, trafficking, and all sorts of debauchery are no longer exceptions to the rule. Our kids are growing up in dark world that will only get darker. They are most certainly strangers in a strange land that grows more hostile each day to the ways of Jesus.
This is why it is imperative, and I can't say this too strongly, it is IMPERATIVE that we train our children up in theology. I'll be the first to admit, even as a pastor, to relying far too much on the church, round table discussions, and passive teaching moments to instill theology into my children. These are all good strategies, but they are not enough. Maybe the most important practical task our churches have before them in this time (other than pure Gospel teaching/living) is a revitalization of passion around theologically training our kids and teaching our families to do it at home, then doing it!
Soft-sold lessons that give warm fuzzy emotional feelings will not sustain them in the days to come. They need to know who God is, why Jesus came, why they need him (their own depravity before God), and how to walk upright in the ways of Jesus while standing up under the scrutiny and hatred of a world that hated Jesus, too. We need to be intentional about building strong leaders, strong servants, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. I beg youth pastors, senior pastors, elders and all leaders, don't water down the truth. The kids can handle it. The need it. They are facing such devastating truths in the world around them, we MUST give them weapons with which to defend the faith, to guard their souls, and to lead the church of the next generation. We must teach them to rely solely on God, to stop worrying about whether they are relevant, and encourage them to be sound.
Jesus is the hope for people such as the shooter in Santa Fe. We and our children are the ones saddled with the task of sharing that hope with him and those like him. Time is short, the task urgent. We must equip them now to flourish, not just survive, in Babylon.