On Thursday, July 23, 2015, around 7:30 p.m., John Russel Houser opened fire in a Lafayette, Louisiana theatre killing Mayci Breaux and Jillian Johnson, and wounding nine others. Jena Meaux was shot shielding her friend Allister Martin from “a hail of bullets” and Martin despite being wounded in the leg managed to reach a fire alarm and pulled it.
Meaux probably saved Martin, and Martin’s quick thinking in activating the fire alarm insured a swift response of emergency personnel and police that helped save lives and bring a quick end to Houser’s rampage. Trying to escape by blending in with the crowd rushing from the scene, Houser retreated to the movie theatre as police arrived and took his own life.
The week before James Holmes was convicted of killing 12 and wounding 70 more in a similar shooting spree that occurred three years before in an Aurora, Colorado, theatre. Tragically reminiscent of the shooting in Colorado which was bloodier and costlier, there are similarities, some were wounded and some died, each involved a madman and each had heroes.
In those few fear-filled moments in that Louisiana theatre we have witnessed side-by-side the two extremes of human nature. In John Russel Houser we saw the depths to which man’s depravity can stoop, and in the actions of Jena Meaux and Allister Martin we can see the heights of human heroism.
Only the Scriptures give us a reliable explanation for these two extreme and contradictory natures. We read in the first chapter of Genesis “God created man in His on image,” Genesis 1:27. Man is endowed by his Creator with a nobility that transcends the dust from which we were formed. But that image has been marred by the sin nature we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, who fell from innocence into transgression.
That sin nature rears its ugly head when their eldest son Cain kills his younger brother Abel, and within the first four chapters of Genesis the stage is set for the drama of human history and conflict that follows. Within every human being rests the capability of great good or horrific evil, and judgment awaits. Houser may have cheated the hangman in a dark corner of that theatre, but he will not escape justice and the judgment to come.
Each of us bears the image of our Creator, an image that was marred by a nature inherited from our first parents by the fall. Life is a constant battle between our created image and inherited nature, and yet nothing we can do will ultimately secure our eternal welfare, as nothing we do can makes eternal damnation inescapable.
The only hope to be free of our old nature so we can live up to the image we were created in is the atoning work of Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come,” 2 Corinthians 5:17.