I watched the news last night even though I really didn't want to. I knew it would be filled with endless accounts of Monday's shooting spree at the Naval Yard in Washington DC. Sure enough they started releasing the victim's identities and showing interviews with their loved ones. A daughter's tearful testimony grabbed my attention....she did not want her father remembered as a victim of some crazy shooter...he was her father, her dad and she wanted that story to be his legacy not the one which tragically took his life.
This is a powerful statement. What she was in essence saying is that her father had a story....one she and her sisters and her mother had been privileged to inhabit. She knew him as a person not a mug shot. Her memory banks are filled with treasures of golden moments of life shared with this man. Her body was imprinted with his hugs from the moment she was born and she grew up learning to read his face knowing what every little expression meant. She knows the kind of cologne he wore and will spend the rest of her life being taken off guard when she suddenly captures a whiff of it on a stranger.
She lived in his world, his story and what she was so tearfully trying to communicate was how this world filled with so many different dimensions; not just the five senses of taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing, but a world with dimensions of love, life, memory, and joy had now in an instant all been reduced to a mug shot on a screen. A robust life flattened out into something she could not even begin to grasp; and so her tearful plea to remember him as a dad not a victim.
Her words are true and good and precious. We should honor them but we should understand that this truth of "a person not a mug shot" goes far beyond the victims of tragic events. This is the great tragedy at the heart of a fallen world. This is what death does....it takes all the dimensions ( and we cannot possibly know how many) of what God originally intended for His children, all the fullness of life and flattens it, crushes it, extinguishes it....leaving at best only a mug shot; a grotesque caricature of the real person. We have a lot of walking mug shots wandering around. I would bet money that the perpetrator of this tragedy had been a dead man walking for quite sometime.
So what are we to do? Just roll over and say eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die? Are we just to throw our hands up and turn off the news like I wanted to because we don't want to be confronted with more senseless acts of violence? Are we just to accept that tomorrow there will be another tragedy and the next day another and so let's all just numb ourselves with the painkiller of our own individual choice? ( We are numbing ourselves....one hundred thousand mug shots have come out of Syria and we hardly blink an eye.)
No I say emphatically we are not. Why? Because God did not leave His world, His creation in a fallen state. On the contrary He entered in to it, in a Person, in a Story, in a Life, and that Life walked straight into the deepest darkest Death for us all. The Resurrection of the Son of God Jesus Christ is the sign that death has been defeated and a new kind of life ...eternal life is now being infused into the broken fragments of this world bringing New Creation ( 2 Corinthians 5:17).
I know for some of you the moment you read the name Jesus Christ your heart sank......"Oh you're getting religious...Darn!!!!" That is Death speaking...for death always tries to reduce Jesus Christ to a mug shot not a person and certainly not God in the Flesh.
So here is the point to all of this.... you have to get back into your Father's Story and inhabit it and not believe the lie that it's over. I write this not just to the "lost" but to the "saved" as well. Let me say it again....you have to get back into your Father's Story and inhabit all the dimensions of His glory, His grace, and His love. I can promise you this....if you get to know Him as intimately as this daughter knew her father wonderful things will begin to happen to you; not least of which you will begin to see the other as your heavenly Father see him or her and always has....as a person not a mug shot.
Jesus bestowed the dignity of personhood on broken, crushed, flattened out individuals. He listened to their stories....He was acquainted with their sufferings; he bore their grief and carried their sorrows. We who are called "Christian" are called to do no less. So perhaps the very first step is to turn off our television ( or other screen devices) and starting right in our very own home, neighborhood, or workplace begin the journey of following Jesus and becoming the means by which He continues through the power of the Holy Spirit to bestow the dignity of personhood; the means by which He continues to defeat death and bring LIFE!