When I first heard the story of 17-year-old Cassie Bernall from dozens of e-mailers, I assumed it was another one of those Internet urban legends.
I hear from hundreds of well-intentioned people a week spreading rumors and disinformation they overhear or pick up on the WorldWideWeb somewhere. This story was just too unbelievable to be true — just too perfect.
It turns out the story was perfectly true.
Cassie went to the Columbine High School library to study during lunch on Tuesday. Shortly afterward, a member of the Trenchcoat Mafia pointed his gun at her and asked: “Do you believe in God?”
“Yes, I believe in God,” she said.
“Why?” the gunman asked. But he did not wait for an answer. He shot Cassie Bernall dead.
Joshua Lapp, 16, was an eyewitness to this execution of the innocent — a walking, talking, real-world illustration of what I have written about so often in this column: that we all live in the midst of a universal spiritual war zone.
Lapp was crouched nearby, hiding from the gunman. What he saw and heard made a powerful impact on him, as it would on anyone.
“She did something that one of the thieves did when Jesus was on the cross,” he said. “She admitted she believed in Jesus Christ before she died. I would’ve done the same thing she did.”
Lapp was not the only person in Littleton, Colorado affected by Cassie Bernall’s dramatic life-and-death testimony. Now the whole world is hearing it. It shows how temporal our world is. One moment we’re going about our routine business. The next moment, we’re gone — at least from this mortal realm.
“She died for her faith,” said Crystal Woodman, a Columbine junior and a member of Cassie’s church group. “That’s how she lived her whole life. She was a martyr for Jesus.”
I thought about this yesterday as I watched the televised memorial service for the 12 students and one teacher massacred at the school last Tuesday.
What a moving ceremony — in spite of the phony spirituality of a few politicians who tried to exploit the moment for personal gain and advancement of government solutions to such tragedies.
Some 70,000 people turned out for the service — about twice as many as were expected. They heard moving calls for repentance from Franklin Graham, stirring songs from Amy Grant and Phil Driscoll, and nonself-conscious calls for evangelism by local pastors and laymen.
Those 70,000 — and, I would guess, millions around the world watching on TV — were not only brought to tears by recollections of this tragedy, they were empowered to fight back in this spiritual war consuming the earth.
It’s rare that Americans are shocked out of their sense of complacency, comfort, and security, and forced to address these ultimate issues as a country. All of us have trials and tribulations in our personal and family lives that make us confront them, but collectively, as a nation, we seldom come together to say: “Yeah, there are opposing forces in this universe of ours — the force of good and evil. They are personal forces. They have names. Man has known about these forces since he was created. But we forget about them as we get caught up in our daily lives, in what one popular new movie euphemistically refers to as ‘The Matrix.’”
Columbine was a wakeup call. Was it loud enough? Will Americans hear it? Will they heed the message? Or will they fall back into their semi-blissful sleep.
There is only one solution. It’s a person. His name is Jesus Christ. He came to earth about 2,000 years ago to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. His coming was foretold by the prophets for 4,000 years before He came in human form. And He’s coming again — and, by all indications, very, very soon.
Cassie Bernall was ready for Him. The question Columbine should raise in the minds, hearts, and souls of every American and every human being on planet earth is: “Are you ready?”
If some evildoer put a gun to your head today and asked you whether you knew Jesus and accepted Him as your personal savior, what would your answer be?
If Jesus returned tomorrow to call out His church, would you be left behind?