I’ve often thought that Santa Barbara is about as close to heaven as you can get. Perfect weather, amazing coastal views, and it’s home to my favorite beach, where you can sit for hours – just you and the waves – without the crowds.
But even this idyllic community isn’t perfect. I was reminded of this just this past Memorial Day weekend, when news broke of a tragic killing spree. At the center was 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, a young man who was living the proverbial good life. The son of a Hollywood director. Surrounded by wealth and fame. He drove a $40,000 BMW, flashed $300 Armani sunglasses, and was used to private Katy Perry concerts and flying first class.
But the young man who appeared to having “everything” was left feeling he had nothing. At least not what he wanted most – acceptance, attention and love. A guy who lamented that he had never had a girlfriend, never kissed a girl, was a virgin. A guy who spent hundreds of dollars at a time playing the lottery in hopes of winning the jackpot and “getting a woman.”
Feeling dejected, maligned and outcast, that void in young Elliot eventually festered into something dark and sinister. And on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, when many college students were celebrating the winding down of another school year, Elliot went on a 10-minute killing rampage throughout the college community, leaving 7 dead – including himself – and injuring 13 others.
The fact is we live in a gravely fallen world. And apart from Christ, we are deeply fallen, too.
It didn’t take long for news headlines to flash and for the stones to come flying at Elliot and his troubled past. Terms like “madman,” “misogynist” and “rich spoiled brat” were hurled left and right.
The more I read, the more I was struck by a much deeper root issue in Elliot’s story. As obsessed as this young man was with women and a relationship status, he did not know who he was truly missing. The relationship he craved but was clueless to was with Jesus.
The fact is we live in a gravely fallen world. And apart from Christ, we are deeply fallen, too. Romans 1 tells us without Jesus’ redemptive work in our lives, we are …
“filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice … full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness… are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31)
Without Christ, we are messed up people. In Ephesians 2, Paul tells us that apart from Jesus, we “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked, following the
course of this world … carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.”
So before we cast stones and blame Elliot’s rampage on guns, mental illness, Asperger’s syndrome, or any other number of labels that have surfaced in the news, let’s remember that we’re all inherently sinful, lost people. Like Elliot, we’re all in need of a relationship with our redeemer, Jesus.
Without Christ, we are messed up people.
And for those of us who have that blessed gift of knowing Jesus and follow him, what are we doing to help the lost and broken to know him better? Who are the Elliots we can love like Jesus loves?
When catastrophes like what happened in Santa Barbara unfold, there are usually a lot of fingers being pointed, labels made, and stones thrown. But what if we took tragic opportunities like this to stop and refocus on the invitation and privilege we have to help others better know their one true hope? The one relationship they’ve always been searching for and just didn’t know? What would it look like for our generation to join past generations in boldly sharing Jesus and the good news he brings? Would that not continue to turn our world upside down!
I think 2 Corinthians 4:6 gives us appropriate marching orders: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Let’s get to work.
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