“He who does not take
his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will
lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew
What happened at the college called
Virginia Tech in the eastern United States, was simply terrible. It appears that
a lone gunman planned and methodically killed 32 people, including faculty
and students. He then killed himself. Amazingly, before his death, he sent a
series of videos to the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), essentially blaming
his victims for what he did to them. He blamed Christianity, the rich, and the
lifestyle of his fellow students. He accused everybody else for what happened,
but he did not blame the real killer – himself.
Like so many, he missed the point of life.
We were created for God's purposes, which includes His command that we
are to “love one another” (John 13:34-35). When
Jesus uttered those words, He called it “a new commandment,”
which it seemed to be, not only for his hearers, but also for the rest of us.
Actually, that command was part of the very fabric of God’s intention for us at
creation, and it was reflected in the Law given to Israel. God said through
Moses, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”
(Leviticus 19:18). As a people, we have not done very well with that command.
Most instead feel hurt by people and events to the extent that our ability to
love others is limited.
And it is an international problem. The
gunman in Virginia was not the only self-centered person in the world. Humanity
unfortunately is filled with them and it always has been. For many years, an
attempt at genocide has been occurring in the Sudan, the largest country in land
area in Africa. The target has largely been Christians, and the instigators have
been people like the young man in Virginia – angry people who want to kill.
Those who survive such atrocities, like the
survivors in Virginia and the Sudan, have a great deal in common.
Those who live and remember will feel shock, anger, hurt and grief which does not
go away. Unfortunately, the tendency of many who have been hurt is to respond in
kind. The survivors, however, have a choice. They can build walls of resentment
and fear around themselves or they can look to the Lord who gives us love.
The real target in Virginia was larger than
those who call themselves “Christians.” It wasn’t really about the rich or their
lifestyles. The man’s real anger was at God. Those who are angry in heart cannot
retaliate against God directly, so they aim at His creation. They kill the
innocent because inside they are full of hatred.
For those who survive, what has been called “survivor-guilt” will be with them. “Why
my child?... Why my friend? Why not me?” There are survivors of World War II,
Korea, Vietnam and all other wars, who have experienced the death of a friend – right
next to them. To this day they agonize: “Why not me?”
On Thursday morning, we were at the
Southland Convalescent Home. After the Bible study on John Chapter 18, we were
to have a birthday lunch with our friend Grace, who would be 93-years old on
the next day. But instead of going straight to lunch after the study, she asked
us to be with her on her “rounds.” Grace has been
visiting thirty to forty other residents almost every day for several years. We met quite a few on
her “rounds” that we
hadn’t met before. Grace is suffering right now from two falls; one of which broke some
ribs. She said “Goodbye” to each one as she spoke
We met many of the people Grace loves,
including Dora, Tom, Yettie, Pearl, Richard and Inez. The latter lady said of
Grace, “She’s so good to come and see me!” Another
one said, “I need a back-scratcher.” We prayed with
DeLois, who had a bad toothache. A man named Milton was a Marine who told us
about the three injuries he received in World War II, as though it was
yesterday. And for him it was. He pointed to the rows of medals he earned, which
were displayed across the top of his TV set and on a shelf. In a Navy hospital,
he endured one and one-half years of surgeries after the war. As he was about to
go under the anesthetic for one of them, he glanced up and looked into the eyes
of a nurse. He said, “I looked up right into the most
beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen, and they were looking right back at me.”
He continued, “She was a Navy Ensign. We were married,”
he continued, “for more than fifty years.”
All those we met are suffering the
ravages of age. We met one bed-ridden man who is 107. Grace told us “He
loves to shake hands,” but unfortunately he was unable to get his hands
out of the light blanket to shake hands with us. Age had weakened him.
Jesus revealed one of the great reasons why
He left eternity and came to this place of suffering. He said, “I
am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”
(John 10:10). Now, life doesn’t seem very “abundant” to the survivors and the
relatives and friends of those who lost their lives to the angry man in
Virginia. Shock and horror don’t leave much room for abundance. We’re more
likely to be happy when things go well and we reasonably get upset when they
But today’s Scripture teaches us another
way to regard life. To lose a loved one, to experience the horror of war, to be a
victim, to lose our youth – is our “cross.” Jesus
said to us, “Take up (your)
cross and follow after Me” (Matthew 10:38). We are all like wounded
soldiers and the majority of our “wounds” are of the heart. Someone or something
has cut into us so deeply that it is like we have been stabbed to the very soul.
We try to “get over it” as some have told us, but
it’s too much – we want to, but we can’t.
Jesus said, “Come
unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”
(Matthew 11:28). Take the burdens of your situation to Him. When Jesus
fell under the weight of His cross, an African man named Simon was enlisted to
help Him carry it (Matthew 27:32). God personally KNOWS your need for
someone who will help. What is your “cross?” It may
be an illness, an injury or the loss of someone, like those who lost loved ones in
Virginia and in the Sudan. It may be the process called “aging.” It might be the
loss of your reputation. Whatever it is, the Lord KNOWS your need, and He longs
to bear that burden with you. Jesus said in today’s Scripture, “he
who loses his life for My sake will find it.” You can trust the Lord in
your loss, for indeed there is
“abundant life” – in Him.
Lord, I cannot bear this
burden alone. I need you now. Help me. Save me. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.