I had planned to take a breather, hoping to lighten up and even inject some humor here. Apparently the Lord had other plans… even tragic ones.
The killings at Oikos University bring back horrible memories of the Va. Tech massacre in 2007. All murder is pain, and killing spurred by vengeance doubles the suffering. There is a common thread between these two perpetrators and me… we are Koreans.
Seung-Hui Cho, who bears my last name, and One L. Goh were/are killers… and victims. Cho committed suicide and Goh is now in custody. They were victims of discrimination and bullying. I remember vividly being teased as a youth. Born in the USA, I never had an accent, thankfully. It is difficult to imagine the humiliation if my speaking voice called as much attention as my straight black hair and Asian eyes.
Through high school, Cho was teased for his shyness and unusual speech patterns. Some classmates even offered their lunch money to Cho just to hear him talk. According to a high school classmate, Cho looked down and refused to speak when called upon. After one teacher threatened to give him a failing grade for not participating in class, he began reading in a strange, deep voice that sounded “like he had something in his mouth. […] The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, ‘Go back to China.'” Another classmate stated that “there were just some people who were really cruel to him, and they would push him down and laugh at him. He didn’t speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him.” Cho was also teased as the “trombone kid” for his practice of walking to school alone with his trombone. Other students recall crueler names and that most of the bullying was because he was alone. Other reports say Cho was stuffed into garbage cans and made to eat garbage. No one came to the aid of the boy, who was also small for his age. Not teachers, not other students.
Imagine the toll this takes upon you – especially during adolescence. Especially for a shy and lonely person. An easy target. Every single day of your life.
These men had psychiatric problems. Whether or not this was something latent or brought out by emotional stress we will never know. I shared one thing with them: rage. I remember the rage that spilled forth from the racial slurs slicing my heart open. It astonishes and disturbs me how much I identify with these mass murderers. No, my life was not even close to what Cho suffered, but my wounds were my wounds. Eventually I sought relief in alcohol and drugs. Only many years later did I receive the true healing that only God can provide.
But what about the victims? What about their families? What consolation do they find in the suffering of someone who mercilessly ended the promise of life for their son or daughter? Will any explanation soothe their need to hold their child in their arms again?
Ironically, both of these men were from Christian backgrounds. Perhaps there was too much Christian talk surrounding them and not enough Christian love.
I find no pleasure in writing about this – rather, extreme discomfort. Only bad news sells. So where do we find the good news?
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18)
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
The lessons of this parable are straightforward, or are they? We must forgive because we are forgiven. But what about the “outraged” servants? Does the master perhaps call in their debts instead of the debts of the unmerciful servant? In other words, who are we to put a limit on the forgiveness of the Father? Even to the worst of us: the unmerciful, the bigot, the murderer… we must not limit God’s ability to forgive without fear and without end. We can never diminish Christ’s work on the cross.
If a family member of one of the deceased were to read this article, perhaps they would feel rage as well. And I wouldn’t blame them. I don’t claim to be able to forgive like the Father. What if I were asked to give one of my precious sons for a thief, rapist or killer?
As we approach Easter, this moment hangs like a cloud over me, and I suddenly feel my heart clenched and my throat choked. Father, let me not seek to understand it all. Let it be sufficient for me to huddle under the wing of Your grace and mercy.
Let me find hope and courage and reason in your redemptive work; in your Blood and in your Body.