On Wednesday, America was stunned with the awful news that a nineteen year old named Nikolas Cruz had entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and killed seventeen people with a rifle. Like everyone, I was both shocked and saddened by this event. We cannot fully comprehend the whirlwind of painful emotions the families, students, and school staff there are enduring; but certainly our hearts go out to them all.
But we should not allow this crime to only affect our hearts. As Christians, what should our responses be? What can we do about what happened?
In the days ahead, we will see and hear some very strong reactions to this tragedy. I believe we will see two notable responses in the days ahead – people will blame God, and people will blame guns. However, neither one is the culprit.
For those who would not profess a belief in or a following of God, it is very understandable why they would now be angry at Him. After all – if God is good, and God is all-powerful (as Christians claim He is), then why does He let these things happen? Either He wants to stop it because He’s good, but can’t because He’s not powerful; or He can stop it because He’s powerful, but won’t stop it because He’s not good. And that question makes sense. But anger at God shows a misunderstanding of God. It’s important to realize that God didn’t cause this, He allowed this. And allowing it does not show that He’s incapable or uncompassionate. It shows that in His sovereign love, He has given man a choice. Man is not a puppet that God moves and manipulates. Man is an intellectual being that God, in love, has given a free will with which to choose who to serve and obey – God or himself. God created a perfect environment, but in love provided an alternative. He warned mankind about the punishment for that alternative, but man didn’t believe God. Man rebelled against God, and ushered sin, sickness, and sadness into our world (just like God promised). God didn’t choose that. God didn’t cause that. God cautioned us against that! But when man turned his back on God, God still wasn’t done with man. While the consequences of sin remain, God is on a mission to restore humanity to the perfection He originally created. Tragedies do not show a flaw in God’s character, they show the fatality of our choices. In times of tragedy, God is not the problem, He is the solution. He is the only one who can ultimately bring us the peace, love, and happiness our world clamors for but can never achieve. He offers this through a relationship with Jesus Christ. When we confess our sins and believe on Jesus, the consequences of our sin still exist, but we can have victory, live peaceably, and look confidently towards a future in Heaven where there is no sin, no sickness, and no sadness. Blaming God and turning our backs on Him in a moment of crisis is like turning away from a doctor in time of sickness. He is our only hope for one day escaping the world of despair that we brought upon ourselves with our sinful choices.
For those appalled by the gruesome brutality of weapons in recent years, it’s also easy to blame guns for these heinous crimes. This too is understandable. If guns are the reason people are being slaughtered, then why would you not get rid of (or at least control) them? Because, as we’ll see, guns are not the reason for these crimes. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. And people intent on killing don’t need guns to do so. To understand this you only have to look at history. For thousands of years, when guns were unheard of, was murder obsolete? Absolutely not. In fact, some of the most atrociously brutal time periods in history have been times when guns were not invented. People intent on killing find ways to enact their wicked fantasies. It could be with homemade poisons, gases, and bombs. It could be with the nearest rock or crowbar. Where there is a will, there is a way. Furthermore, would outlawing guns accomplish what we desire – removing guns from the hands of wicked men? I feel certain it would not. Drugs are illegal…people still get high. Robbery is illegal…thieves still steal. Killing is illegal…murderers still take lives. The very definition of a criminal is someone who does something illegal. They don’t care about the laws, they don’t care about the consequences, they don’t care about right or wrong – they will do what they want to do. If guns are made illegal, a criminal will either find a way to illegally obtain one, or they will find an alternative weapon that will do just as good of a job. Making guns illegal would not remove guns from the hands of the wicked, it would make good men powerless to stop evil. Google “gun laws and crime rates” and you’ll see that studies show fewer guns do not equal less crime. I have a gun. I have several guns. Not one of them has ever shot up a school. Why? Because the problem isn’t the gun, the problem is the person holding the trigger.
So, what is the cause? Where should we assign blame for the atrocities that just happened and that have happened far too many times in recent years? I believe we should blame and repair four main areas.
The Bible tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus taught that “…from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts…murders, thefts…wickedness…” (Mark 7:21-22). At our very core, every one of us is wicked. This wickedness, left to its own devices, desires, and decisions only gets worse over time. The only thing that can stop the putrid rotting of our souls is the life-giving water of Christ. Take a wicked man’s gun, and he will be wicked still. Give a wicked man Christ, and there is hope. Society improves when people under the direction of the Holy Spirit follow the morals, methods, and mannerisms of Jesus. Anything done in our own power out of our own wicked hearts will ultimately be futile. Only Jesus can change lives and make wickedness pure.
A society enthralled with violence and evil
Many studies have been done on the correlation between video game violence and aggressive behavior. I have not studied this deeply, and can’t cite statistics, but there is one thing I have noticed in my short life – our society is growing more and more infatuated with darkness, evil, violence, and fear. Countless video games, movies, and TV shows condone and promote gore and godlessness. Watching a horror movie or playing a violent game does not make one a murderer – I understand that. But when our culture is inundated with and inspired by violent, angry, immoral, destructive, and wicked behavior, it should not be a shock when some people succumb to the darkness all of that represents. Paul challenged us “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2).
Failure to develop our society spiritually, socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically
The responsibility of training youth falls on the shoulders of three main institutions – the family, the church, and the school. In America, all three have in many ways failed. Not every individual in all of those entities is a failure. But corporately, all three institutions have fallen short of their responsibilities.
Where can you begin on this? Divorce is rampant. Adultery is shameless. Rebellion is expected. The relationships of husband/wife and parent/child are pathetically woeful all across our country. Satan despises the family structure that God created – one man and one woman for life, with the husband as the head, and the wife as the helper, both nurturing and leading their children to follow the Bible. Satan has done everything he can to destroy that. Homosexuality, equality, and individuality are the buzz words of our society, but what have they done for us? Nothing but given us broken families, empty lives, and disintegrated morals. Without strong, moral families, society will fail. And without God, families cannot be strong or moral.
I am passionate about this because I work for one. I was raised in one. And I can say from personal experience that in many cases, the church has dropped the ball. For too long we were more about conforming the people inside the building to a list of man-made rules than we were about bringing the people outside the building into a relationship with Jesus Christ. As a result, we failed to love and disciple our youth. Children and teens grew up with an intellectual knowledge of facts and rules, but no real understanding of God. Then, they left to do their own thing because what the church taught them just didn’t cut it. And I don’t blame them. Now to be fair, not everyone in church leadership has made this mistake. I’ve had the privilege of being mentored by great men and women of God. And many of the people who did make those mistakes were sincere people who meant well, but didn’t understand what they were doing. However, the church must get back to the mission of impacting society through real, life-changing truths presented with culturally relevant methods. Without it, society will struggle.
Education is severely lacking in schools across our country. God has been removed, morals have been forgotten, truth has become subjective, discipline has been diluted, and expectations have been lowered. We have good, intelligent, passionate youth in our country…but they are graduating and entering adulthood severely under-equipped because our educational system is broken. Many good people work in our schools – good people who care about their students and want to change lives. But the philosophy and practices they are required to adhere to make their good desire almost impossible to achieve. Without quality education, our society will be weak.
The lack of personal responsibility and accountability
Anything goes in America. Truth is subjective, behavior is excused, and no one is allowed to interfere with that. Character, compassion, and consequences are largely ignored. As a result we have developed lazy, pampered, entitled people who do whatever they desire with few repercussions. Again, that does not describe every single person in America. But it does describe a mindset that is all too prevalent.
When tragedies happen, God and guns aren’t the problem. Sin is. And sin is quickly disintegrating the foundation of our society, causing atrocities and heartache. So what can we do?
Pray (I Thessalonians 5:17)
Pray for each other. Pray for our nation. Pray for our leaders. Pray for those who are hurting from this tragedy. Pray for the lost. Pray for yourself. God is our solution, and prayer is our communication to Him. So use it. Use it desperately, use it consistently, use it passionately – now more than ever before.
Raise your family on Biblical principles (Ephesians 4-6)
You can’t impact the world on your own…but you can impact your family. You can’t change everyone else…but you can change you. Don’t get so distracted by the frivolities around us that you fail to do that. Learn about God, love your spouse, and lead your family every day.
Be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)
It has been said that “The darker the night, the brighter the light.” Though circumstances around us are dim, our light should not be! Now is the time to stand and shine. Be different from this world – offer them Jesus, and offer them hope.
What happened in Florida this week is heartbreaking. But unless our society is brought to a belief in absolute morals and personal responsibility, and unless they are shown the hope, love, and emotional stability that only Christ can offer, it will happen again. So be a thermostat, and not a thermometer. Use whatever platform of influence you have to reach our world until God takes us on to the perfection and peace He has always wanted us to have.