The State of Grace: a response to tragedy

This weekend saw the state of Colorado—and effectively our nation—plunged once again into a state of shocked mourning. A man named James, lost in some imagined world of heroes and villains, put a mask on his face, wrapped himself in Kevlar, and walked into a packed movie theatre with four guns, firing round after round into the masses. When the smoke finally cleared, the madman’s mission had claimed 12 lives and injured 58 others.

Sorrow and mourning followed. Everywhere you looked Friday, you saw and heard descriptions that sickened your stomach and moistened your eyes. What was supposed to be a night of fun in celebration of the summer’s most anticipated film turned into a bloodbath only 17 miles from where two teenage gunmen massacred 13 of their classmates just thirteen short years ago. The reason for one state’s proclivity to suffer violence at the hands of madmen was difficult to comprehend.
As the victims were slowly indentified, we learned that a number of small children—some as young as 3 months—had been injured in the rampage. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters; people had been maliciously attacked. Survivors recounted their tales of what had transpired; giving thanks to have been brought through the madness with only their memories as scars.
We listened in disbelief as pundits and blowhards seized the tragedy as a means to further their agendas for or against our nation’s gun laws and the policing of such. We shook our heads when blame was placed anywhere but squarely on the shoulders of the 24-year-old med student who chose to pull those triggers and end those lives. We were in shock and in need of someone or something to blame.

And then a photo of James Holmes began to circulate. He smirked at us through our screens, almost as if to say, “I’ve done what I came to do and there’s nothing you can do about it”. Anger came forth as we gathered in our contempt for this lowly excuse of a human life. His blood was called for as penance for the lives he had taken. Even good, holy Christians were heard wondering why the police didn’t simply put James Holmes down in the parking lot of that theatre, saving us all the trouble of bearing his presence any longer. We wanted justice. We wanted retaliated action. We wanted revenge.

And yet, lost in this sorrowful and volatile situation is one hard, if not inconvenient, truth: James Holmes is worthy of redemption.

The purpose here isn’t to humanize this individual or to cast sympathy upon him or his plight. He is a monster who will surely be put to his death for his crimes. But as difficult of a concept as it is to grasp or understand, we as Christians are responsible for gracing James Holmes with our forgiveness. We are beholden to a Savior who would willingly bestow His redemptive power upon the life of James Holmes should he simply ask. The power of such holy grace is astounding.

This is a man who made the choice to take away human lives and to do it for absolutely no reason (as of when this article was written). And even if he possessed some psychotic nonsense of a reason as to why he calculated and committed to such a vicious assault, it wouldn’t hold an ounce of meaning to any of us. He forfeited his rights of understanding the moment he entered that theatre. And still, he is capable of being forgiven. Because of the magnitude of our God’s graciousness, He still loves James Holmes and hopes for his salvation. Even as I type those words, they’re difficult to swallow and accept.

But in what state does our willingness to extend grace have to be for us to be able to forgive the actions and sins of this madman? How potent does our faith have to be before we can forgive James Holmes? Whatever it is, I, for one, am not there yet.

Our nation suffered a tragedy this past weekend at the hands of a rampaging psychopath, and though we reel in disbelief and mourning and anger, our God has seen fit to forgive and redeem this individual who wrecked his maddened will upon so many innocent lives. The state of God’s grace is that magnificent. And though we find it impossible to accept, it is our responsibility as the physical embodiment of Him and His kingdom to do the same.

Are we Christ-like enough to forgive a mass murderer? Are we benevolent enough to pray for his soul and hope for his redemption?

The state of our grace will soon tell.

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  1. Sarah said:

    Wow ypu speak truth. Im shaking reading this

  2. Sooo good Cory. If God turned Paul’s life around and loved Him regardless of the amount of Christians he persecuted and killed, we can and absolutely should do the same for this guy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Abby said:

    Preach. I live in Aurora and if you could pray one thing, it would be that this city understands what you just posted. “he who was forgiven much can love much”. And if we can forgive Holmes, if we can just love him… Man what a testimony that will be. I’m in full belief that what took place yesterday morning is going transform the city of Aurora into people with loving hears for each other and for Holmes. God will get the glory. What was meant for evil, He will turn for good.

  4. I live in Aurora, I still have a lump in my throat from yesterday’s events. Also– my 16 year old cousin was shot and killed several years ago at a party. Most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced in my life. So I have pretty strong emotions regarding gunmen and random shootings.
    Yes, James Holmes can be forgiven, but let’s be careful in saying whether WE can be “Christ-like enough” to do it. In my experience (and through reading Cory Ten Boom’s books/remembering how she was able to move on from the horrors inflicted upon her), the only time I have ever been able to forgive the ones who have taken away my precious loved ones is allowing God to do it through me, 100%. It’s not me being Christ-like or benevolent enough. That kind of pain is indescribeable. When it’s someone that was part of you who was killed, it’s just not possible to muster up the Christ-likeness. It’s only God flowing through you, ALL Him, that will allow you to move on from something like this. And thank God He is enough.

  5. Sal said:

    I can almost see you struggling to write this post. It’s difficult to read these words, too, which is probably why it needs to be said. It’s so easy to remember that no matter what we’ve done in our lives, God forgives and loves us still. But then there are people like James Holmes, and it’s far too easy to think that their actions are unforgivable, that there’s no way that God could love them for what they’ve done. And yet He does. Thanks for this reminder, Cory.

  6. Reblogged this on Ad Astra Per Aspera and commented:
    Cory shares the TRUTH that is painful and difficult to hear – but the only hope we have and the Truth that we live by.

  7. Steph said:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Cory, and for reminding everyone of His grace. A grace none of us deserve.

    I’ve lived in Denver for 16 years, and in that time CO has seen some pretty heavy horrific things, but one thing I know about this state is that we rally. We pick ourselves up. I pray that people will allow time for victims, families and friends to grieve and heal.

    I read a blog this morning from a woman who was in the theatre with her daughters; It’s worth reading if you haven’t already.

  8. Reblogged this on Jonathan Foster's Blog and commented:
    This is the blog I wish I had written about yesterday’s tragedy in Aurora, CO.

    Thanks, Cory, for such a timely and thought-provoking post.

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