BBC Radio 4:Rev Dr Sam Wells - 03/10/2017

Good morning. Another mass shooting in America: this time leaving 59 dead, and thousands of lives changed beyond recognition by injury, shock, bereavement, horror.

The logic of a mass shooting, if one can use such a grand word for such a grotesque act, is that by eradicating a swathe of people one can somehow remove an oppressive presence, avenge a perceived injustice, settle a lingering score, or teach someone somewhere a lesson. But it never does any such thing. All it does is to confirm the capacity of one human being to hurt, ruin, devastate and shatter the lives of others.

Of course many will seek a change in the gun laws. Rightly a deluge of kindness will flock towards people for whom money and medicine can never replace what they’ve lost or heal what they’ll remember. There may well be private relief this isn’t a story about race or religion or Muslims or migration. But for each of us 5000 miles away, for whom the promise of thoughts and prayers feels like a banal cliché, there’s perhaps something closer to home to ponder.

We’ve seen yet again how each of us has the capacity to do untold good and to inflict indescribable harm. Put a piece of technology in our hands, in this case an automatic weapon, elsewhere an aeroplane, or a rampaging lorry, we can quickly multiply that damage. Things that take years, even decades to build – like a beautiful garden, trust between communities, or a person’s whole life – can be destroyed in an instant. I’m often struck by the widespread use of the phrase ‘making a difference’ – because that lone attacker in Las Vegas certainly made a difference. The point is, what kind of a difference?

Christianity’s founded on a man who didn’t live very long, didn’t kill anybody, didn’t invent anything, didn’t publish a book or record any music, didn’t settle scores or lead nations, didn’t break records or win prizes, didn’t have many friends left when he died or any followers on social media. But for me and millions of others he made a difference. He made a difference by losing his life, not gaining it. He made a difference by recognising there was something bigger than him, which put his personal security in the shade. He made a difference through forgiving others and pointing the way to everlasting life. He made a difference by talking and listening and enacting and inaugurating a way of life in which people could flourish, trust could be restored, deepest hungers could be met and glory be revealed. He made a difference by inspiring others to live like him.

We all get a chance to make a difference. The gunman in Las Vegas made his choice. The best way to respond to his dose of death is by recommitting to our way of life.

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