Hope, our only offer: The Gospel in times of tragedy

by Eric Metaxas
Opinion
On September 16th a disturbed 34-year-old named Aaron Alexis entered the Washington Navy Yard and opened fire. By the time the shooting was over, thirteen people, including Alexis, were dead.

In the aftermath, the discussions focused on guns, mental illness, and security at military facilities. But for many of us, what happened that morning was yet another reminder of the fragility and seeming senselessness of life.

These are far from academic issues. We have friends and neighbors who work at the Navy Yard. And one of our number is grieving the loss of a church member who was killed that tragic morning.

What Christians have to offer is not better policies. What we have to offer is something far more precious: genuine hope.

Christian hope is not optimism, which is merely a way of seeing things. And it certainly isn't "positive thinking" or any such pablum.

Christian hope is the conviction that God is not done with His creation but, on the contrary, has begun the process of setting things right. It is the conviction that because of Jesus' triumph over sin, death and Hell, the process of restoration is under way.

I know it's difficult to perceive God at work when so much seems to have gone so wrong.

The author of Hebrews also understood that. After writing that God had put "everything in subjection to him," that is Jesus, he acknowledged that "at present we do not see all things subject to him."

Then came five of the most glorious words in Scripture: "but we do see Jesus." The Jesus, who "for the sake of the joy that lay before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and [who] has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."

The "joy that lay before him" was the source of Jesus' hope, and it's meant to be the source of ours. It's why Paul told the Romans that "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

In his tremendous book, "Christ the Tiger," my friend and theologian Thomas Howard provides a powerful glimpse of that glory. In the manner of a prophet assuming God's voice, he writes, "I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation."

What then follows is the substance of Christian hope, secured by Jesus' victory over sin, death and Hell itself:

"Behold I make all things new . . . I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheel-chair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder . . . and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of."

That is hope. It will not undo the pain and suffering, but it insists that the sufferings of this world will not have the final word.

This assurance, more than policy, is what people need. And it's what we have to offer.


Eric Metaxas is currently the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org) that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million.


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Copyright© 2013 Prison Fellowship Ministries
Reprinted with permission
BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries