For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4
Recently, I participated in A.L.I.C.E. training in conjunction with my teaching at Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The training, led by the Ann Arbor Police Department provided many interesting insights regarding the steps I must take to help ensure the safety and well-being of my students in the event of an active-shooter situation at the university. The officers who led the training did a wonderful job of explaining how law-enforcement’s response has evolved over the past fifteen years; looking first at the Columbine High School attack, followed by Virginia Tech and most recently Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. During the presentation, one of the officers recognized the magnitude of the circumstances that brought him to our session, sharing with us that while tragedy is a terrible source of opportunity it is a great catalyst for all of us to learn what to do based on what has worked and failed in the past.
The educator in me agreed wholeheartedly with his point. Lessons were learned from each incident that can be applied in the future. Mistakes of the past can be avoided with better understanding and new approaches. This made me feel better, but not for long. Unfortunately, the same truth can be applied to those people on the other side of the equation. Harris and Kliebold knew where to place their incendiary devices in Columbine High School because they had been shown the high traffic areas through multiple emergency drills. Understanding the design of the building and the protocols for prompted Virginia Tech gunman Seung Hui Cho to chain several entry doors into the building and to practice shooting at pieces of paper in a gun range lined up along the base of the walls – the places where students would be instructed to sit during a lockdown. Adam Lanza, having been taught where to hide from a gunman while a student in school, knew exactly where to look to find his victims in Sandy Hook Elementary. It seems that the bad guys learned just as much as the good guys – but for all the wrong reasons.
As I contemplated this it dawned on me that this same process exemplifies the nature of sin. Some would like to look at sin from a simple perspective, based on the 10 commandments or those things our mothers told us not to do as children. But like most things in life, sin evolves. The nature of man allows us to quickly capitalize on any new thing we find, aligning it with the sinfulness that fills us. How long did it take us to find ways to use the marvelous communication tools of film, television, and the Internet to promote topics and ideas that stand in complete opposition to the will of God?
Many are quick to tell you that the Bible doesn’t deal specifically with certain 21st century issues, and therefore is outdated in its approaches, archaic in its views, and simply out of touch with modern life. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The difference comes in the simple fact that those people who propel the evolution of sinful society work equally as hard to deny the opportunity for the same evolutionary process to occur with the Word of God. I am not suggesting that the truths in the Bible change. The Word of God is inerrant and needs nothing from me or anybody else to complete it. Instead, it was God who provided His word in a language that we could understand and apply to every situation in life we face. The Scriptures are alive – providing us with everything we need to live fulfilled lives in Christ in any corner of the world during any era of time. Or as Hebrews 4:12 puts it, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Believers must strive to see the world through the lens of the Word of God. We will not always like what we see, especially when it shows us the sinful shortcomings in our own thoughts and deeds. But instead of changing the words to better suit our needs, we change our lives to better suit God’s will. Through the redemptive actions of Christ and the sanctifying work of the Spirit our lives can evolve: directing us to God’s love while leading us away from opposition and defiance through sin. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” May we encourage one another to seek God’s Word and hold true to it in the ever evolving world in which we live.