Borderline Bar and Grill is centrally located in Thousand Oaks California, a city that regularly competes with Simi Valley and Irvine for the bragging rights as the Safest City in America. Now it will be known for something else – another mass shooting. This one will sting more than the others. Borderline Bar and Grill is just 19 miles from my home and proximity is a factor in how we experience the pain.
It seems like there have been mass tragedies and large scale natural disasters almost weekly for some time, but a thousand miles can provide a buffer. When it happens in our backyard, we will know the victims by name, the neighborhood where they lived, the school they attended, and if not, we will certainly know people who knew them. This is very personal suffering.
When suffering, there is often a struggle to place some blame. Ian David Long, the man who aimed his gun at so many people and finally at himself will certainly be blamed; but so will his upbringing, his access to mental health and to guns, and national attitudes about guns. We know this to be true because this story has become all too familiar, in Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Sandyhook, and a dozen other shootings dating back to Columbine and before.
The theological explanations are clear – evil finds its primary source in the fall of mankind, which produced sin and selfishness in all generations to come. The chaos of our present world-system is also an evident cause, which includes man’s hatred to man. Also, suffering results from the activity of “the world powers of this darkness” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” These combine to create every experience of loss and pain.
The ultimate reflection, however, is this: loss causes great mourning and produces a spirit of fear. Many of us will struggle to find answers that satisfy our minds, but our hearts will still break every time more loss is experienced. Again and again, we will find ourselves asking “why?” In those moments, even the most rational explanations offer us very little comfort.
So, the real question is this; how should we respond? Jesus told a parable about a man who was attacked and badly beaten by robbers. Two religious leaders passed him by, unwilling to soil their hands with his blood. And then came a man from “the wrong side of the tracks” who took pity on the victim, cleaned and bound his wounds, and provided for his needs until he was healed. The man who showed mercy was the hero in Jesus’ story.
Be the hero of the story when encountering people impacted by the shooting at Borderline. I encourage you to listen without being too quick with opinions, pray as if your life depended on it (it does). And love sacrificially in a [FUTILE] attempt to match the level of loss experienced by friends and neighbors. In this way, we will manifest the steadfast love and unlimited compassion of God to those who mourn and grieve.
After all is said and done, God is the One who “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.”
The best response we can offer is to “weep with those who weep.”