Why we’re perennially shocked at deaths in large numbers
Almost an entire professional soccer team, with a gaggle of journalists and flight crew, perished Nov. 29 as they were arriving for the South American Cup in Medellin, Colombia. The team came from southern Brazil. Many of the journalists were well known nationally. Everyone is in shock over the loss of 71 lives. Only six survived.
Apparently, electrical failure was reported by the captain before the plane, owned by a Bolivian company, fell from the sky.
The loss of life is tragic. There is reason to be sad and to mourn. I wrote a short devotional piece, on DeusConosco.com, to help people deal with this moment.
But why are we constantly shocked that loss of life occurs? It happens with no little frequency. Transportation accidents, natural disasters, genocide and war—the causes are many that end life in great numbers. People die young, they die old; people did wealthy, and poor; healthy and sickly. Some see it coming, others have no idea until the very second the jaws of death descend.
So why do we regularly feel shocked when it happens?
We live an illusion. That’s the best explanation I have. Life is fragile, uncertain, with no guarantees. We flee from the thought of death. That insurance that pays out upon untimely or accidental death we call life insurance. Shades of NewSpeak!
We have focused ourselves so much on living, in our own way, in the here and now, that we’ve become experts at deluding ourselves about our own impending death. Facing our mortality would mean having to prepare for what comes afterward.
We seem to think that we always will have more time. There’s always tomorrow. We wait for that more convenient opportunity, Acts 24.25, which never arrives.
So when that disaster or accident happens that takes many lives, we can’t ignore it. We’re shocked by it. Death penetrates our barriers. And we have to work to refortify them, to block out the painful thoughts of the Beyond.
What we should do is use such moments to examine ourselves, as Jesus tried to do in Luke 13.1-9, make sure that we ourselves will not perish eternally when our time comes to pass the gate of death. At such times, then, the call to repentance is always appropriate.
¶ Some years ago author Bruce Larson, in his book Living Beyond Our Fears, wrote about the fear of missing out. Christians sometimes feel like they’re missing out on the pleasures that this world claims to offer. So they think to experiment with a fling, with a red convertible, with travel, with whatever temptation seems new and shiny and attractive. It was a hook of Satan. There is nothing more in the world than emptiness. In this vein, Ecclesiastes is always a good read. No little reason why the Lord included it in Scripture.
¶ Fear is often good, and it’s one of the most powerful motivations. Let our fear, then, be that of missing out on heaven. Let us do whatever it takes—and it takes all we have and are—to get there, as we rely upon the grace of God in the sacrifice of his Son, through the power of his Spirit.
¶ The sectarian spirit is alive and well, because it thrives in politics, also a hotbed of party spirit. A local alderman who is also a Pentecostal pastor, has presented a bill to make it easier, legally, for churches to get started—as long as they use the paperwork of their denominational headquarters. Just so happens that his denomination has a large hierarchy and would so benefit from the bill.
¶ Last Sunday, a 34-year-old man was killed here in town by two others with a plank. If guns or knives aren’t available, most anything will do. The Bible doesn’t mention what Cain’s method of murder was. A rock, maybe? Lamech didn’t say what instrument of death he would use to exact revenge for getting wounded. By Abram’s time, war has been invented and, one assumes, weapons to wage them. Mankind is creative that way.
Let us remember that it’s not the chosen method of murder, but the heart that plots the deed and the hand the wields the weapon that need to be dealt with.
¶ Lots of attention on Twitter these days, as the free service tightens controls of speech and boots off people who don’t speak their political language. As they strangle freedom within their walled garden, others are rising to offer free speech. The human spirit will have its say. The Spirit of God will have his as well. His message through the saints’ good works and proclamation reaches those who need to hear via many channels. We can be thankful for that.