On April 20, 1999, a nation was shaken to its core. Dressed for combat, two young men walked onto their school campus, a campus they had walked onto hundreds of times before, and took aim at their peers. With a mission in mind, they fired upon their unsuspecting classmates and teachers at Columbine High School. Twelve students and one teacher’s lives were ended that day—along with many more injured physically and emotionally by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s hatred.
The world wondered how these two could look down the barrel of a gun and into the eyes of a young life, only to see nothing more than a mere target. The answer to this question escaped us all, yet even though the Columbine Massacre will forever go down in infamy, there is a flower that has sprung up from the tears of one of its victims. This flower comes from the life and story of Columbine’s first victim, Rachel Joy Scott, as depicted in the new movie I’m Not Ashamed, which is set for limited theatrical release this Friday (October 21, 2016).
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At your next youth gathering, discuss how the gospel has the power to transform your students’ schools.
While Columbine High School is a place oftentimes burdened by the tragedy and aftermath of the shooting, I’m Not Ashamed attempts to give a dramatized version of the events leading up to the massacre through the eyes of Rachel. It highlights her struggle as a high school student attempting to live out her Christian convictions in a secular context—a narrative that many of our own students can relate to, and one that is worth talking about. That is, students still struggle today to live out their Christian convictions in a world that is oftentimes skeptical toward Christianity.
The fear of faith and reality of death
For most students, sharing one’s faith means committing social suicide. With all of the pressure to fit in and to keep up the status quo, students struggle with being open and honest with others. Though well meaning, most students find it hard to see eternal significance, because death seems so distant. The reality of heaven and hell doesn’t connect with many modern-day teens.
The Columbine’s tragedy exploded this cocoon wide open and bridged the gap for many students to see the fleeting nature of life, and the need for others to hear the gospel. It helped those of us who were students 15 years ago realize that there was more to life than the gossip that goes on in high school hallways. It reminded each of us that the way we live matters. And, perhaps, most importantly of all, Columbine caused us to wonder what would have happened if Dylan and Eric were reached with the gospel? Would the story have looked differently?
Perhaps Rachel Scott’s story, retold in I’m Not Ashamed, will have the power to stir some of those same realizations in a new generation of students. Of course, tragedy isn’t the only way to help students see the reality of life and death. Students today need to see what the gospel can offer others without a tragedy to remind them. But this takes the intentionality of a youth leader who is willing to pour into the life of a student.With every generation comes the opportunity to live better than the previous one. Click To Tweet
Jesus’ gospel is the hope of this world
Some believe that tighter regulation, heighten gun laws and more education will prevent another Columbine, and, in many ways this is true. But the gospel is the only message that can deal with the heart of the issue: sin and the depravity of humanity. Each person in this world has been affected by and feels the effects of sin. Our hearts have become depraved by sin, and there is no level of education that can ever change it. The Holy Spirit alone has the power to bring a person from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Our students need help seeing that the gospel is the true cure to the world’s problems. To stop pain and suffering in this world requires the love of God in someone’s life, so they can recognize sin and flee from it. Only when we’ve been reconciled through Christ’s blood can we aim to do better and live better.
Help your students gain perspective by discussing difficult topics. For instance, consider chatting about real-life, ongoing tragedies the world is facing today—especially tragedies that are specific to teens like cyber bullying, depression, terrorism, etc. A simple way of doing this is by watching I’m not Ashamed in theaters or when it’s released on video, then having some heart-to-heart discussion time.
A small act of compassion
Before Rachel passed, she wrote the following in a short essay called “My Ethics, My Code of Life”: “I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same.” This statement is juxtaposed in tragic irony, as the very people she had tried to show compassion to gunned her down. Yet, her sentiments are dripping with truth, that if students show the compassion of Christ’s love to others, it can start a chain reaction of the same kind.
Youth ministries today must keep their focus on simple truths and not become distracted by the peripheral details that so easily entice us. If we are to live like Christ, then we must help model His life to the world around us. With every generation comes the opportunity to live better than the previous one. And perhaps by sharing His great love with the next generation, they too can say, “I’m not ashamed.”