“Gun violence over the 4th of July weekend kills 160 and leaves 500 wounded”. If you think this is a recent headline, it’s actually from 2020. Last year 140 people died in shootings across the US during the same holiday period. In 2014 the LA Times reported the Fourth of July as the deadliest holiday weekend and while additional dangers of fireworks and vehicular accidents play a part, interpersonal violence was a significant factor.
According to the Gun Violence archive, the tragedy in Highland Park was the 15th mass killing of 2022 in America with 10 others occurring over the past weekend. Add to that 309 mass shootings in the previous 6 months in which four or more are injured or killed and you’ll see why these events no longer qualify as headline news. How can we make sense of these terrible acts?
Jesus warned that as the current chapter of human history comes to a close, there will be an increase of wickedness and the love of most will grow cold. In fact, the timeline of His return will be expedited to ensure there are still a few people alive to celebrate His second coming (Matthew 24:12-22). As Christians, Christ’s followers, our role fundamentally is to be ambassadors of love. Romans 12 teaches us to live with compassion and overcome evil by exercising kindness. That means we can’t ignore our current reality. Compassion does not turn from sorrow and suffering.
Compassion will engage in lament as hearts stretch to their breaking point. Compassion clings desperately to hope. When you are up against forces of darkness and feel yourself growing numb to the atrocities and agony experienced by our neighbours, lean into the comforting grace of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 1:4 informs us we overcome compassion fatigue by dwelling in God’s restorative, nurturing presence. Hear again Jesus speaking: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! [be hopeful] “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).