You might have read the story of James E. Holmes appearing in court for the first time after the mass shootings in Aurora, CO. Everyone writing about it made it clear that the families of the victims were present. In a way, most of us were present through them too. We all want answers. We all want justice. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, as they say.

Usually, it isn’t until long after sentences are handed down that we begin to understand what motives can never help us with. And then there is always the God question. Why does God let these heinous things happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? We usually learn two things. We learn that the perpetrator suffered from a psychological disease and that the violence was triggered by an event such as a grievous blow to their self-esteem: a lost job, a school failure, or a divorce, for example. They strike back in a way that will bring them a high level of recognition for a life that, at least to them, was not adding up to anything.

We can get mad at God or the church or gun laws or anything else. For me, though, there are two things worth considering. First, we should be more vigilant for funding for mental health. Second, like the alerts that went up after 9/11, we must be vigilant about reporting conversations when anybody says anything about harming themselves or others. Most of the perpetrators of these acts of violence tell someone in advance of the crime.

When the Olympic Games start this week in London, you can bet the authorities will be plastering notices all over London for people to report anything they see happening that may be strange or out of place. It is a reminder to any of us that we should be on guard and alert to protect ourselves from those who have become so unbalanced – either by psychosis or abuse – that they would strike out and take another’s life. Want God to pay attention to such things? It just isn’t God’s way to step in and stop things. God has chosen to use us as his agents of protection for each other. You can either argue with that theological fact or you can begin paying attention to the signals that someone near you is about to become unglued.