AURORA, Colo.-National and local TV stations, radio programs, and The Denver Post saturated Colorado this weekend with minute-by-minute updates of the investigation into the shooting spree at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater in the wee hours of Friday morning, killing 12 people, injuring another 58, and terrorizing hundreds more.
Live broadcasts pointed cameras at the booby-trapped apartment of 24-year-old suspect James Holmes, where bomb squads methodically detonated and diffused homemade explosives. Story after story chronicled who the victims were-both the deceased and the injured-and their heartbreaking backstories. President Obama arrived Sunday to encourage families of the deceased and buoy up the injured at local hospitals.
"Scripture says that 'He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,'" the president said to the press Sunday evening. "And when you have an opportunity to visit with families who have lost their loved ones-as I described to them, I come to them not so much as president as I do as a father and as a husband. And I think that the reason stories like this have such an impact on us is because we can all understand what it would be to have somebody that we love taken from us in this fashion."
Earlier in the day, many in the community headed to church, hoping their spiritual leaders would make sense out of this tragedy.
At Colorado Community Church in Aurora the packed auditorium bellowed with praise songs and hymns, reminding worshipers that Jesus is the source for hope and healing. A short sermon by Pastor Doug Carlsen taught members they could help those who are hurting by imitating what Jesus did when his dear friend Lazarus died: He went, he wept, and he worshiped.
Then Pastor Robert Gelinas led the congregation in prayer, asking them to pray for specific groups of people: victims and their families, first responders, anyone in the room who had been affected by the tragedy.
"This next one is not going to be easy," Gelinas said, "But [Holmes] has a mom and a dad and they all need God to show up in their lives. Pray for James Holmes and his family." The congregation responded with tears and fervent pleas to God.
Following the president's visit, a community-wide prayer vigil at the Aurora Municipal Center drew thousands of participants. Billed as a multi-faith event, the vigil included a considerable amount of Christian content: The Hope Baptist Church choir sang numerous worship songs and several speakers prayed in the name of Jesus. But when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke, the tone of the evening quickly changed when he brought up the suspected shooter.
"I refuse to say his name," Hickenlooper announced with disgust. "In my house, we're just going to call him Suspect A." The crowd cheered its approval.
His remark reminded me of a Facebook post I saw on a friend's wall this weekend. It said, "I hate him. … Holmes deserves nothing."
"No mercy-at all? No matter what?" I commented.
"First, mercy is not mine to give," my friend replied. "We don't know that he is asking for it or if he even feels remorse for his actions. Mercy cannot be given to someone who does not want it or does not deserve it."
Mercy is by nature undeserved. Google defines it as "compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm." Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary defines it as "the act of sparing, or the forbearance of a violent act expected." The Bible defines mercy like this:
"And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" (Matthew 18:33 ESV)
"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13 ESV).
May James Holmes repent of his evil actions and seek the mercy God has shown us.
On Saturday evening, July 21, on the corner across the street from the Aurora Century 16 movie theaters, where a makeshift memorial to the shooting victims has sprung up, a group of people gathered to pray and sing praise songs:
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