Why I believe in Jesus when children are murdered

Gather ’round, ye children, come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man

Those are the opening words of Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God, a series of twelve songs that tell the story of a baby saving us all from death. It’s a ridiculous notion by most standards, I know. And I don’t just mean the part where a God we can’t see is involved in our lives or the part where he actually shows up in our world in the form of a baby or the part where he somehow dies and rises again to save us all from our sins.

I mean the notion that death has been undone. It seems silly. Impossible. And of all days, today it seems utterly contrary to what our bloodshot, tear-filled eyes see on television. There simply is nothing about the mass murder of school children and the hearts of parents split wide open that would cause anyone to suspect that death is undone. Whether the battle is spiritual, physical, cultural, or political, Death seems to be carving out new spaces in the world. We spend decades and billions of dollars chasing it down through vaccines and the eradication of diseases that plagued humanity for centuries, and suddenly it moves into our elementary schools as if to mock us. No matter who you are or what you believe, this much is undeniable: Death is a persistent, heartless bastard.

Today is the kind of day that causes the most devout of (honest) Christians to look to the sky puzzled and shattered, wondering why. This is the kind of hellish suffering that places a seal over the hearts and minds of skeptics and unbelievers everywhere. And on days like today, the most devout of (honest) Christians understand why. If a merciful God exists and is involved in the universe at all, children shouldn’t be murdered.

I confess I spent a number of years dealing with death mostly in theory and from a distance. This year has robbed me of the option to speak about death and its undoing in abstracts. I’ve pastored three families grieving the loss of their father, sister, and daughter, including the families of two of my best friends – families I consider my own family. I’ve stood behind a microphone at three funerals. I’ve walked with Amy as she mourned the loss of one of her close friends, a 39 year-old mother of two young boys. I’ve cried at least once a week for four-and-a-half months when I look at my kids, still deeply connected to the moments when death came for one of ours (and lost).

There is no religious pretense left in me when I speak of death. I know it is real. I know it is cruel.

So how do I believe in Jesus on a day like today? How can I still imagine that a loving, invisible God is alive and at work in a world where children and adults trying to protect them are arbitrarily slaughtered?

Because I must.

I must believe that Death won’t be allowed to continue to eviscerate us. I must believe that better drugs and better laws are not our only weapons. I must believe that there is a greater victory coming than safer schools or fewer guns. I must believe that there is a gentle Maker who is tending to the souls of lost children. I must believe there is a Righteous King who will deal justly with Evil. I must believe that there is a Rescuer who will make everything sad become untrue.

I cannot believe that life and death are arbitrary – that each child’s murder will be the end of her story – that each shattered parent will be left without hope of a day when their every moment isn’t defined by unspeakable loss.

Life can’t be a story in which Tragedy and Evil and Death have the final word. There must be another chapter. And there must be a Hero.

Certainly there are other reasons for my faith, and there will be other days for describing them. Today is for this one: I believe in Jesus because I need a rescuing hero. I need to know that Violence and Death – however much they try to steal and kill and destroy – will not have the last word. I need to know that Love and Life win, and I refuse to believe they don’t.

I believe in Jesus today because deep down in my soul, I believe Death will be undone, and the Story of Jesus putting Death itself to death is the best story I’ve ever heard. My soul says it must be true. Nothing else will do.

After the last tear falls
After the last secret’s told
After the last bullet tears through flesh and bone
After the last child starves
And the last girl walks the boulevard
After the last year that’s just too hard

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

After the last disgrace
After the last lie to save some face
After the last brutal jab from a poison tongue
After the last dirty politician
After the last meal down at the mission
After the last lonely night in prison

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is
Oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last plan fails
After the last siren wails
After the last young husband sails off to join the war
After the last “this marriage is over”
After the last young girl’s innocence is stolen
After the last years of silence that won’t let a heart open

There is love
Love, love, love
There is love

And in the end, the end is
Oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales

‘Cause after the last tear falls
There is love

(After the Last Tear Falls by Andrew Peterson and Andrew Osenga)

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6 thoughts on “Why I believe in Jesus when children are murdered

  1. I am so thankful that you are helping others understand the message of Our Lord. I am still in awe with the way you put your thoughts and His on paper.
    I just keep thinking of how Jesus gathered the little children around him………it’s something I do at school every day, and for the most part, I can read a lot of different emotions in their little eyes. Most trust me and a few don’t. My old eyes will have to send out a more comforting message after this senseless killing and let them know that everything will be fine.
    A few hugs won’t hurt either.

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