Another day. Another mass shooting. Here's my reflection on what happened this past Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Texas at a small Baptist church.
When I first heard the news about the shooting, it was in a text message. I was already busy on a Sunday morning like most pastors. My initial reaction was not much of a reaction. I just read it as if it was another day in our world. Another day. Another mass shooting. It wasn't until I was able to slow down and process what was happening that I really began to think more about it. Here's where I'm landing.
I don't have the answer.
I don't know why this keeps happening. I don't know why innocent blood is constantly shed. I don't know why it seems to be happening with greater and greater frequency and intensity. I don't know why Columbine isn't even in the Top 10 for worst mass shootings in our country anymore. I don't know.
Let me clarify. I have the answer. The answer is sin and evil. There's an entire theological component to this. There's a moral component to this. I have the answer. What I don't have is an answer that satisfies. The intellectual, theological answer to an emotional question simply doesn't satisfy.
A weeping family member cries out, "Why God? Why did this happen?"
Am I really supposed to respond intellectually? "Well, you see, back in the Garden of Eden..."
Or, "Well, we just don't have good gun control like Japan or Canada."
Or, "Well, if everyone was armed and could protect themselves."
Or, "We have to have free will or there is no love."
Do those answers really satisfy the anguish of a grieving mother who has just lost her 5 year old? Does it really help for the families who remain to pick up the pieces of their shattered community? Maybe for some who have some background in thinking down those paths. But for the person without it, I don't think those answers satisfy in this moment.
I simply don't have the answer.
But here is what I do know. I must repent. I must take ownership of my own evil thoughts and practices. I am a pastor. I am not a perfect person. I am flawed and broken. I'm capable of yelling at my kids and scarring them for life. I'm capable of not caring for my wife the way that I should. I'm capable of allowing bitterness and hatred to grow in my own heart and soul. I'm capable of becoming cynical of others and not letting them in to my world. I'm capable of being a hypocrite when it comes to life; praising an air strike that takes out a Muslim terrorist, even though innocent Muslim people may have been killed in the process. But I mourn for innocent Christian people who are killed by domestic terrorists. I'm capable of hypocrisy and darkness. I'm capable of not seeing ALL of humanity as being created in the image of God. I'm capable of only seeing those who are like me as of worth. I'm capable of that. I'm capable of that evil.
Would you take a moment and reflect on your own heart? Are you at a place of perfect integrity before God on this topic?
Rather than jump to knee jerk, quick reaction answers, I must do some hard work. Some soul searching. I must take the log out of my own eye before I try removing the speck from someone else's eye. It's easy to point the finger at a shooter and cry, "Evil. Hatred. Jerk. Idiot. Loser. I'm glad he's dead." It's a lot harder to look inside of myself and see all of those things. To see the times I have called people those names. To see the times I have treated people as if they were those things. To see the times I have contributed to the lake of sin and evil that we all drink from. To see the times I have avoided people on the street because they don't look worthy of my time or a few dollars to buy a warm drink. I am not innocent in this. I contribute to the sin problem daily.
So what's my reflection on what happened in a small town in Texas, on a Sunday morning at a little Baptist church?
I am no better than that shooter. I am filled with evil just the same. I need Jesus more than anyone else. My heart is desperately wicked and in need of restoration and healing. I must take responsibility for the fact that when given the opportunity, I haven't given the cup of cold water in Jesus' name. I haven't been to the prison to visit the prisoner. I haven't given warm bread to the neighbor in need.
"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" [Jeremiah 17:9 NLT]
I must resist the urge to tweet, post or comment. I must resist using my authority on a Sunday behind the pulpit to fulfill my own personal political leanings on a subject as difficult as this one. I must resist the urge to act as if I am above it all. As if I have all the answers. As if I have it all figured out. I don't. The answer isn't as easy as...
More gun control. More guns in good guy's hands. Republicans suck. It's a Democrat ideology. He was a Muslim. Antifa. Atheist. Mental health.
Those things are easy to say. It's easy to comment. It's easy to call people online you don't know a "fool" because they see something differently than you do. But these answers just don't satisfy. These are not the answers of life. These are not the answers of living water. These are easy things to say that make us feel better initially, as if we have done something to help the problem.
But they aren't really driving at the root. The root problem is my heart. And yours. It's a lot harder to look at myself in the mirror as a follower of Christ and say, "I am that same evil monster on the inside." The difference is that Jesus died to restore me. To heal what is broken inside of me. To love a sinner filled with evil and cynicism.
Make no mistake about it, the answer is ultimately Jesus. It is Jesus who brings life. It is Jesus who brings healing and salvation. It is Jesus who restores us to the Father. It is Jesus who is living water. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Jesus is the answer. Jesus was the answer before God said, "Let there be light." Make no mistake about it. Jesus is the answer!
But before I can offer the answer. Before I post on social media. Before I condemn others for thinking differently than me. Before I condemn and hate a man like the shooter in this situation. Before I can do any of that...
I must repent.
I must look in the mirror.
I must realize I'm capable of evil.
And I must turn my heart back toward God.
My heart must be guarded and brought into alignment with the perfect will of God.
I must be transformed by the renewing of my mind.
Every. Single. Day.
Followers of Christ - I urge you to do the same.
"Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord." [Acts 3:19, 20 NLT]