And Slew the Little Childer

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Whenever you have to deal with something like the Connecticut shooting, something that simply crushes the heart, it is important to think carefully before speaking or writing. This is not the time to be debating gun control, drone attacks in the Middle East, and it is certainly not the time to be drawing ham-fisted comparisons to the abortion carnage. The reason for this is that the parents who are broken over this were parents who had chosen life, not parents who hadn’t. This does not mean that abortion is irrelevant to this tragedy, for it certainly is not, but we want to make sure we locate it as a clear point of gospel relevance. Otherwise we just come off as opportunists who are just looking for a chance to haul the topic of conversation over to a particular hobby horse. But in the aftermath of something sick like this, we need to reconnect with the permanent things. If we don’t point to transcendental realities in a time like this—gospel truths—then we might as well sign a peace treaty with the darkness now.

I have often said that nativity sets should include a set of Herod’s soldiers—that is as much a part of the Christmas story as the shepherds, or the star, or the wise men. These traditional figures all glorified Christ in His coming, but the reality of such bloody soldiers was the reason He came. Nothing illustrates the need for His mission to us better than that appalling loss to Ramah. An early English carol, “Unto Us is Born a Son,” has a verse that understands this juxtaposition of humility and adoration over against the haughtiness of pride and blood.

This did Herod sore affray,
And grievously bewilder
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer,
And slew the little childer.

And Rachel wept for her children, for they were no more.

Two things should stand out about this. First, while I noted that this is not the time to call out those who would use the tragedy to promote gun control—or to call them names on the Internet—we must confront those who would continue their lockdown policies of gospel control. And by gospel, I mean the whole counsel of God for a lost and sinful race—the restored order of things, repentance for sin, and true faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. If you want a society which refuses to name the name of Jesus, and yet is somehow free from these sorts of outrages, you want something that this sinful world cannot ever provide. We can have no salvation without a Savior. God sent a Savior to us, and we have no saviors of our own, just a lot of pretenders. His invitation to our generation is the same as it has been for every generation, and it is “come with me.” We cannot be saved unless we do.

It is not possible to build a culture around a denial of God-given standards, and then arbitrarily reintroduce those standards at your convenience, whenever you need a word like evil to describe what has just happened. Those words cannot just be whistled up. If we have banished them, and their definitions, and every possible support for them, we need to reckon with the fact that they are now gone. Cultural unbelief, which leads inexorably to cultural nihilism and despair, is utterly incapable of responding appropriately to things like this, while remaining fully capable of creating them. In the prophetic words of C.S. Lewis, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

This shooting was horrendous, but far worse is the fact that our blind seers have no idea what to say about it. The horror happened, and it was immediately followed by the horror of countless individuals saying wildly inappropriate things about it. We have monsters in our midst, and vapidity in our highest council chambers, not to mention the monsters there too, and all of them want to slouch toward Bethlehem. God have mercy.

And so this leads to the second point. The reason we need to have fixed and God-given standards is not so that we might climb up some moralistic ladder, rebuilding a mythical past where these sorts of things didn’t happen to us. No, these sorts of things have always happened. We live on a screwed-up planet. We must have a God-given, fixed standard so that we may know why we need forgiveness so much. God’s law is not to pat us on the back and tell us what fine fellows we are. God’s law is given to provide a proper shape for our repentance. In moments like this, we are aghast, but our “repentance” is formless and void. We need the shape of God’s holy Word so that we know how shapeless we have become. We need the Spirit of God to move on our waters.

And here is where abortion really is relevant, along with all the other awful things we do to children. We do not need to talk about these things as political issues—however appropriate and necessary that may be in its time and place. But before we can even think about that, we need to come to grips with the fact that, at the personal level, it is plain that an aching bloodguilt rests upon our nation. I am not talking about our officials, though they are included. I am talking about the millions of us who have occasioned it, paid for it, obtained it, provided it, and funded it. According to Scripture, blood is something that returns to those who shed it. It also returns to the land where it was shed. And our vast reservoir of guilt is larger and deeper than it has ever been.

The only blood that does not return with compounded guilt is the blood of Jesus. His blood comes to us for cleansing, and not for condemnation. His blood does not return with guilt, and it is the only way that all the other guilt can be prevented from returning to us. An old gospel song points the only way to our salvation—“nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Nothing.

So we must confess that while the spirit of Christ is alive in the world, the spirit of Herod is not yet gone. And the only way to expel that kind of darkness is to boldly proclaim that Jesus came into this world precisely to destroy this kind of darkness through His death and resurrection. He was born in Bethlehem from Mary, and He was born again in Jerusalem, the first born from the dead. His grave, just like Mary, was full of grace.

This is a darkness that must be confronted, and it can only be confronted by believers who are prepared to wield the gospel—not as a sectarian talking point, but as real gospel for real sin, real balm for real pain, real light for real darkness. So go find your children, hug the little childer, thank God for the life that is in them, and teach them the Christmas story. We need it so much.

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