What happens to humanity when one human snaps? What effect does it have on the rest of us, when one person “goes postal” and kills innocent people?
First, there is the obvious: the loss of life and loved ones, which has a ripple effect that touches many people in profound ways. And for that, our hearts go out to the victims, their families and loved ones, and to the community of Aurora Colorado, whose faith in security (and perhaps in humanity) is shaken once again.
But there is also a less obvious effect, one which I think explains why everyone feels shaken by an event like this. This is the effect of a shared humanity: when even just one human suffers, we are all affected; and when one human tramples across that fragile line between being made in the image of God, and playing God, and takes innocent lives, we all somehow participate in it, and we are all diminished by it.
As you may know, the Catholics have a new word in the most recent translation of the Nicene creed: consubstantial. By saying that Jesus Christ is consubstantial with the Father, we mean that he shares the same divine nature with God the Father. But did you know that Christ is also consubstantial with humanity? Yeah, you probably did, but maybe you didn’t know the word applies here, too. To say that Jesus Christ is consubstantial with humanity is to affirm that he also shares the same human nature as the rest of us. He is one of us, and he is connected to us through our common human nature.
The point is that the actions of one human affect all of humanity, by virtue of the fact that we all share a common human nature (Romans 5:12-15). When one human causes suffering, all of humanity both suffers with the victim(s) and also participates in the sin. But the good news is that the principle works the other way, too. When one human loves his or her neighbor, humanity is raised up in dignity. And when one particular human (Jesus Christ) went to the cross, he did so on behalf of all of humanity. And because of the fact that we share a common human nature with him, he was able to take our curse, and give us his blessing (Galatians 3:13-14), which is that we can be reconciled to God, and by that reconciliation, even our humanity is glorified.
There is nothing that a human being can do, that the love of God in Christ can’t undo (Romans 8:31-39). I know that doesn’t bring the victims back, however. All I can say about that, which I hope will be a little comforting, is that whatever else heaven is, it is a reunion of those who were separated in this life. This is why the apostle Paul said (in I Thessalonians 4: 13-18) that though we grieve, let us allow our grief to have a spark of hope in it.
(and by that I mean that I wish you both kinds of peace: peace on earth, and peace of mind)