20651993Reports of killings in the U.S. seem to receive so much more prominence in the media than killings elsewhere. Still, the recent mall killings and suicide in Omaha qualifies as a terrible tragedy by any measure. Here is the Guardian’s report:

“The teenage gunman who shot dead eight people at a Nebraska shopping mall before turning the gun on himself had lost his job at McDonald’s hours earlier after being accused of stealing $17 from the till, it was reported yesterday.

Robert Hawkins, 19, emerged yesterday as a high school dropout who had spent four years in foster care and had been estranged from his family. He recently broke up with his girlfriend and was sacked from his job at McDonald’s on the day of the shooting, the Omaha World-Herald reported. He had also been turned down by army recruiters, CNN reported.
He left a suicide note that read: ‘I’m a piece of shit, but I’m going to be famous now.'”
(Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Friday December 7, 2007)

You don’t need a PhD in psychology to work out the sources of Robert Hawkins’ despair. All human beings hunger for love and significance. It seemed that Hawkins had little of both. He was sacked from McDonalds, for goodness sake. And even the Army didn’t want him. He was estranged from his family. And he had just lost his girlfriend. No significance. No love.

There will be eight families who will forever remember Advent, not with joy, but with fear and sorrow. Nothing can justify Hawkins’ cold-blooded taking of human life. But we can understand his desperate grasp for fame and immortality. He may have been a “piece of shit” but he was going to be remembered. He was going to be somebody even if it killed him. And others.

The story breaks my heart because Robert Hawkins wasn’t a piece of shit. Nobody is. Our hunger for love and significance betray our divine origin. We were created by God and were meant to find our significance and our love in Him. Unfortunately, in choosing to “be like gods (Genesis 3:5)” we cut ourselves from the only true source of love and significance. We died (Genesis 2:16-17).

But God loved us enough to pursue his wayward children by coming as Jesus. Nobody is a piece of shit because God came to offer afresh the relationship that would enable humankind to once again receive the life they needed. The angel in Luke 2:10-14 wasn’t exaggerating when he said:

“’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’”

I am saddened because clearly the angel’s message didn’t reach Robert Hawkins. I am saddened because there are many more like him out there, many more in despair, unaware that there is an answer to their deepest needs.

It is especially tragic that such soul hungers are particularly acute in the Advent season where so much is promised by the slogans of the season but so little love is evident. If only the voice of Christ can be heard above the din.

Here are the words of the Christ of Christmas:

Looking for love?
Jesus says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 TNIV)

Looking for significance?
Jesus says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 TNIV)

Looking for immortality?
Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26 TNIV)

Some of us have gone through life relatively unscathed. Others have gone through the valleys that Hawkins walked. Or worse. But if we were in Christ we would probably have found the resources to survive and grow through our tsunamis. Jesus saves. We must get the news out to the Robert Hawkins of this world.

We wish the Hawkins’ tragedy hadn’t occurred. But it did. We should take it as a wake up call for all sorts of things. Above all it is a reminder of the lostness of humankind. This Advent many of our churches will be having evangelistic initiatives. May the tears from Omaha remind us that this is serious business indeed.

As Jackson Browne reminds us, all human hungers are finally a hunger for God.

“Hunger in the midnight, hunger at the stroke of noon
Hunger in the banquet, hunger in the bride and groom
Hunger on the TV, hunger on the printed page
And there’s a God-sized hunger underneath the questions of the age.”
(Looking East, Jackson Browne)

Jesus said:
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
(John 6:35 TNIV)

Your brother,
Soo-Inn Tan