God's Co-Worker: The Georgia School Shooting

“I have no one who loves me… I have nothing to live for!”

Think about those two statements. “I have no one who loves me… I have nothing to live for.” This past week I’m sure many of us watched in awe and amazement the heroic stand of Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk who disarmed Michael Brandon Hill, the would-be murderer at a Georgia Elementary School.

Michael Hill entered the school with an AK 47, 500 rounds of ammo, and a world of darkness – coming from a place where he felt no love and no purpose in living. Yet, he unexpectedly encountered a woman from the opposite spectrum. Where Hill felt no love and no purpose, and only hatred from the world around him, Tuff showed him kindness and respect. She not only listened to him and his struggles, but related to him at his place of pain. She knew the darkness of despair, and met him there. She revealed her own struggles in life, where earlier in the year she faced a divorce after 26 years of marriage. She shared her own attempted suicide because of her darkness and despair, and yet she prevailed. She rediscovered purpose and meaning in life, coming out of the darkness and prodding Michael in the same direction.

 “I saw a young man ready to kill anybody that he could,” Antoinette relayed, “And take any lives he wanted to… He told me he was sorry for what he was doing, but he was willing to die… I just started telling him stories, saying ‘You don't have to die today… We all have situations in our lives. It's going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. We all go through something in life. No, you don't want to do this. You’re going to be OK… I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me. But look at me now. I'm still working and everything is OK."

Love overpowering evil; a bright light shining in the darkest hell. Antoinette Tuff became an instrument in God’s hands, overcoming the fear she surely had, conquering the evil intent of Michael Brandon Hill, not only saving the children and workers at that Georgia School, but even giving the confused and lost Hill a glimpse of divine love.

And when the media began to praise Tuff as a hero, she simply responded by giving all glory to God!

What a beautiful story and one we can relate to St. Paul Epistle Reading of today. We heard how the Apostle reminds us, “We are God’s fellow workers… Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:9,16) Here, the Apostle Paul highlights two crucial elements in his letter. First, he reminds us that we are all co-workers with God. And second, he emphasizes that we are all temples of God which house His Spirit. Let’s look at both of these points closely.

First, we are co-workers with God. Imagine if you actually worked in the same place as Jesus, working next to Him, working on the same project that He was doing, working together with the same end goal in mind! Can we even imagine what incredible meaning and purpose we would find in such work? Working with Christ would transform menial work into something that has eternal significance! Our lives would take on new and deep meaning. We would look at everything we do, and in fact look at even our own lives, in a radically exciting, significant and consequential way! We would never be able to say that life is meaningless, or that I have “nothing to live for.”

Here is a fundamental principle we should strive to live by. Whatever we do in our daily lives, and whatever we face in our lives, remember that we are co-workers with Christ! We should be working together with Him towards a common goal! This transforms each day into a significan day full of purpose because we have Jesus as the partner and co-worker in our lives.

Contrast what someone like Michael Brandon Hill said, and unfortunately what many other people actually feel - “No one loves me” and “I have nothing to live for.” This is the deception of the Evil One, and an unfortunate reality created by many people’s lonely lives. St. Paul reminds each one of us, however, that if we look at life from God’s perspective, we have much to live for! God loves and respects each one of us and actually wants us to become His co-workers! He wants to be our partner in life, helping and guiding us, while also expecting something from us. God cherishes our lives and values who we are and whatever gifts we have to offer.  Anyone who truly understands our Orthodox Christian faith and tries to live in an authentic, vibrant relationship with God will learn to see life as an incredible blessing, a vast and exciting opportunity to serve God and serve one another for the glory of God!

Too many people in our world today are desperately trying to figure out how their lives can take on significance and meaning. St. Paul reveals to us how – by understanding life as a partnership and cooperation with God!

The second lesson from St. Paul epistle today is for us to remember that we are all temples of God which house His Spirit. A temple is a sacred space where God dwells; a space dedicated for worship and a place of encounter with the Holy One. St Paul challenges us to look at our own lives as a place where God wants to live, a space where God desires to meet us. If we look at ourselves as a place where God lives, it changes how we value ourselves and how we value others. We will treat ourselves with dignity, and offer respect to everyone we meet.

These are two lessons which could change the lives of people like Michael Brandon Hill. For those who have “nothing to live for” and who feel that “no one loves me,” St. Paul reminds us that there is someone who loves us so much that He wants to make His abode in our own lives. And when God comes to live with us, He gives us every reason to look at life as a blessing, a wonderful opportunity to work with Him in bringing His love to the world around us.

Antoinette Tuff understood this. She overcame the unbelievable fear of facing a young man with a loaded automatic and a crazy desire to kill people, and looked beyond the evil exterior of her potential murderer, to see instead a confused young man, struggling in a life without love and without meaning or purpose. She understood, whether consciously or unconsciously, in that crucial moment that she was a co-worker with God, and acted as His ambassador, bringing love and hope to Michael Brandon Hill. 

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