If you do not know who Robert Wayne Gladden Jr. is, please stop for a moment now and pray for him. If you know who he is, stop for a moment now and pray for him.
I found out today that there was a shooting yesterday, Monday 8/27 at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore. One student was critically injured and remains in intensive care. Robert was the shooter and now faces charges of attempted murder.
That his name has been publicly printed means he will be tried as an adult.
If you are interested in reading about the details of the incident and the heroism that prevented it from turning into another Columbine or Virginia Tech, the Baltimore Sun has excellent coverage. That is not my purpose in writing this.
My purpose is to ask and then answer the question “how does the Christian respond?”
We comfort the hurt.
We stand with the community.
We encourage the frightened.
We love the fearful.
But most of all we must have compassion for the shooter. I know that scripture tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and to forgive but as important that is to me that is not the same as compassion. Compassion assumes forgiveness and love and blessing, it is not an active vehicle to enable those things. What compassion does is it forces us to look the shooter in the eye and acknowledge that this boy, could be my own.
He is not faceless evil. His name is Robert. He is 15 years old. Once, he was a baby as innocent as any other. Once he stood at the top of the slide and cried out “Mom, Dad Watch this!” Once he held out his arms for his mom and dad because he was scared and needed them to chase the monsters away.
Compassion forces us to look at the boy and say “what warning signs did I miss? What could I have done to help you? To prevent you from doing this? To save you from the pain that brought us here?”
As parents we can ask those questions and bring it back to our children. As Christians, we MUST ask, and we must ask our children and the children in our community. Maybe it was bullying, maybe it was depression or maybe it was just straightforward psychopathic homicidal tendencies. We’ll deal with reasons as we find them, but we have to find them first. And we have to find them before they find the end of a gun.