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Cut to the Heart

May 25, 2022 by

At the news of another tragedy in which nineteen children and two adults were killed in a shooting in Uvalde, Texas, our hearts are broken thinking of the parents, families, friends and neighbors of the victims. Here yet again we’re confronted by an act of appalling violence against the most innocent. The words of the prophet Jeremiah come to mind: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15).

7174801329_f707d66a2e_bCredit: "Matthew 2:18" by Denise Krebs is licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.

How can we best respond? In the coming days, there will no doubt yet again be debates about what changes in laws and policies are needed. As a pastor, I have no special expertise to weigh in on these questions. But for Christians and all people of good will, one thing at least must be clear: We must never get used to an event such as happened yesterday in Uvalde. In the words of the apostle Paul, we must “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15), sharing at least in some small way in the grief and devastation of the parents who have lost their loved ones. We must pray for them and for the schoolchildren who survived and are now burdened with the trauma of what they experienced.

Yesterday’s carnage comes just ten days after the previous mass shooting in Buffalo. In both cases, it appears that the killer was an eighteen-year-old young man. There’s an added horror in the fact that a young person just entering the prime of his life should choose to perpetrate an act that can only be described as demonic. Whatever the other factors leading to what happened yesterday in Texas, I believe we must not underestimate the role of what the New Testament calls “powers and principalities,” the spiritual forces of evil afflicting our world not just in Uvalde and Buffalo but also in Ukraine, Yemen, and other places of bloodshed in our world.

The New Testament tells us what we are to do beyond grieving and praying: we must let ourselves be changed. In a few days, Christians around the globe will celebrate the feast of Pentecost, when according to the Book of Acts the Holy Spirit descended on the first believers gathered in Jerusalem “with a sound like the rush of a mighty wind.” The noise and commotion drew a crowd of onlookers, to whom the apostle Peter spoke, challenging them to the kind of radical change that scripture calls “repentance.” In response, the crowd was “cut to the heart.” As a result, they were filled with overwhelming love for one another, and formed a fellowship “of one heart and one soul” that, in time, would change the world.

After yesterday’s events, we too must be “cut to the heart,” repenting of any lovelessness, violence, and apathy in our own lives. May we as a people rise to this challenge and be transformed like the crowds in Jerusalem were, in a way that bears fruit in actions of love and community. Fundamentally, such a transformation is the only lasting answer to hate.

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Paul Winter

Paul Winter

Paul Winter serves as the Elder of the Bruderhof. He lives with his wife, Betty, at the Woodcrest Bruderhof.

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