I have been struck by how quickly the recent Las Vegas shootings left the headlines and our national discourse. Was the “moving on” somehow emblematic of how we’ve come to view life—something cheap and disposable, the loss of which no longer merits a meaningful pause? Was it a symptom of a soulless market-driven culture, helplessness resulting from the many senseless deaths to which we have become accustomed, or was something much deeper going on? I’m inclined to explore the last option for a moment. If our mental health professionals are right, a significant percentage of us are unhappy, stressed, and depressed. In fact, many live in that desperate unspeakable place where they not only welcome death, but secretly hope it beckons them. In that condition, it is hard to see the joy or value of life, let alone to appreciate its loss. It’s a miserable hypothesis, I know, but in a nation where suicide and other “deaths of despair” are at crisis levels, it may not be too far-fetched.
That wretched condition stands in sharp contrast to the Bible’s take on the promise and value of human life. While the Bible does not shy away from presenting life’s harsh realities, it is also equally unapologetic in its view that life is an extraordinary gift from God—no one else can give it. Life is presented as the very breath of God breathed into a lifeless creation that then became a living being (Gen. 2:7). The human being stands apart from the rest of creation as a prized and cherished creature, distinct from all others, and having a unique relationship with the Creator in whose image he is made (Gen. 1:27). Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), the human being is endowed with extraordinary talent and capacity (we can figure out exactly when an eclipse will be, for goodness sake!) and is placed on earth for a limited time to use that awesome capacity to show off the manifold goodness and majesty of God in all areas of life.
Senseless deaths are, thus, not just heartbreaking and sad, they are a waste and a vile robbery. For us to see them, once again, for the grave violation they are, we could begin by searching among modernity’s casualties for that lost piece of humanity that once told us we were special.