On Valentine’s Day this year amid all the romance, flowers, chocolate, and cards, a terrible event happened that is still resonating today. On that day in Parkland, Florida, 17 staff and student’s lives were senselessly ended by a person walking into the school and shooting them. It is a tragedy that has become far too common in the time since we all gathered around our TVs to watch a school in Littleton, Colorado, shatter the “bubble of safety” in which we thought schools were enclosed.
After Parkland two things happened which I want to focus on today. Students began to stand up and demand change. They stood in front of microphones and let their fear, anger, frustration, and hope be amplified to all those that could and would hear. They demanded that something change, so that no group of students would have the experience that they were going through. They felt they needed to speak for those who could no longer speak for themselves.
While many people applauded their willingness to have a voice, others used their platforms on TV, Radio, and the Internet to attack and belittle them. Some of the responses that came from people more than three times these students’ age, where vicious and personal. But, the underlying theme was this, “You do not matter.”
Regardless of where a person stands on the gun control debate, when did it become ok to attack the victims of a tragedy just because they say something with which the other person does not agree? This kind of response is even more prevalent with students. The last two generations have been told that they don’t matter - that they are lazy, unmotivated, and worthless. Yet when they take a stand on something, they are told they have no clue what they are talking about, that they don’t understand and should just be quiet.
As followers of Christ, we should be on the front lines of pushing back this “double talk.” Jesus set the standard in Matthew 19, when His disciples tried to keep people with children away from Him. Christ took that opportunity to put them in their place. By saying that the “kingdom of heaven is made up of people (children) like this,” He was giving the children worth. They did not have worth because they achieved something. They had worth because they were created by God, and their ability to believe and understand who He was, was the kind of faith God desired.
We work from birth to tell our children that they need to be bold about their faith, to live out the Great Commission. We are hypocrites if we say that and then stand in silence while their peers on TV are being “cut down” by adults, because they don’t share their views. If we claim that we want to raise up a generation what will advance the cause of Christ, they must believe that we will stand with them when they step forward. They need to know that their opinions have merit, and the issues they wrestle with are legitimate and valuable.
I hope the voices of young people will cut through noise of our lives and break our hearts. We are called to raise up the next generation to be bold, but I wonder … are we guiding them to see themselves as Jesus sees them or are we acting like the disciples and standing in their way?