Reminders of the Fall were all around us this weekend. Of course an entire nation mourned the massacre in Denver, but even more died — anonymously — in a horrific truck crash Sunday night in Texas. The sports world waited to see the NCAA’s verdict on Penn State’s malice and neglect, and as Israelis once again counted the cost of terror, the International Olympic Committee rubbed salt in old wounds by refusing to acknowledge the Games’ greatest tragedy. And that’s just the news from the headlines. As I tried to retreat from the news, I got a Facebook message telling me that a childhood friend was found unresponsive and rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to repair damage caused by an aneurysm.
It’s not just evil that comes to our world through the Fall, but all manner of brokenness — from illness to madness to the seemingly random tragedies that scar our lives. If the Fall is the central reality of our lives, we should rationally give in to despair. But we know that where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more. Even now the stories of heroism are filtering in from Colorado, but aside from those moments of incredible bravery in the face of sheer terror, there is also the more basic — less glamorous — grace that I saw unfold in support of my friend this weekend, as the church extended its arms to pray for, to care for, to support, to feed a family in a state of ultimate crisis. The layers of grace go deeper and deeper. We take for granted the blessing of knowing when we make a desperate call for help that courageous, competent police and emergency officials will show up as fast as they can — and in force — whether you’re at a movie theater in Aurora, a roadside in Texas, or a bedroom in Kentucky.
My pastor once said that one way to describe our purpose on this Earth was to fight back against the Fall — fight back in our own hearts, which betray us again and again, but also fight back in our communities and nation. For some that means putting your body between a girlfriend and a gun, for others it means answering that call for help every time it comes, and for others it means quietly leaving your best casserole on a friend’s kitchen counter.
As we cling to grace in this present age, we know that an even greater future awaits. In the words of Saint Paul: “Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For this hope we were saved.” In other words, there is hope now, but that hope pales in comparison to the hope to come — and that knowledge of that hope should never leave our minds and hearts.