Once again, we are assaulted by a mass shooting in America. Almost instantly, the pundits jump to the microphones to pontificate on what the problem is and why this keeps happening to us in the most free land in the world.
Some point to the problem as stemming from the proliferation of guns in our culture. And to some extent, they are right! There are far too many guns in the hands of people who should not have such weapons at their disposal. Clearly, there is a problem here. So, do we take guns away from people, or make it so hard to obtain a gun that fewer people can get them?
Others point to the fact that there aren’t enough guns, specifically in the hands of people, good people, who will use them to protect themselves and others from bad people bent on hurting others. And to some extent, they are right. Just this last week, a potential mass shooting event was thwarted by a woman who had a license to carry a concealed handgun when she shot and killed the person shooting at a group of young people at a party. So, do we arm more “good” people, such as security guards at schools and other places that might become a target for a mass shooting?
And, of course, there are extreme opinions on either side of the two arguments above. So, what’s the problem?
The problem is far too complex for simple answers. But our culture is so polarized that we can’t even talk to each other about the problem without resorting to partisan bickering! And here, I think, is where the real problem lies.
Or, at least, part of the real problem. Because the real problem is something that far too many people won’t even consider anymore.
The problem is sin, and the answer to sin is confession and repentance and a God who is willing and eager to forgive. But that isn’t a simple answer, it is very complex, and most people have no clear understanding. Because sin is so pervasive and pandemic, it requires confession and repentance on a grand scale: in individuals, institutions, groups (ethnic, cultural, political, etc)… everyone! Then there is mental illness, in part the result of sin in our society that allows it to go untreated by refusing to deal with it forthrightly. Sin is a part of the human condition, and many people choose to ignore it rather than deal with it.
Like I said, it is complex. But at the root, the problem is sin.
Greed (sin) by some who want to profit from the proliferation of guns. Pride (sin) by some who just want to get their political agenda passed so they can feel good about themselves. Unrighteous anger (sin) by some who choose to act out and hurt people because they cannot deal with the rage inside themselves. Tolerance of evil (sin) which appears to be rife in our culture. The list could go on, but you get the point. What we need is some humility and a lot of confession and repentance! But these are concepts that are foreign to most people today. We who claim Jesus Christ as our Lord need to speak up and remind our culture of these concepts and model them for all to see.
Confession and repentance always begin with me (and you). We cannot expect it of others if we are not willing to expect it of ourselves. That’s why we continually confess our sins in worship and in private devotions. Repentance means the changing of direction, stopping the sin and walking in righteousness. Again, if we don’t expect it in ourselves, we cannot hope to see it in others! Judging others’ sin without acknowledging our own is itself sin (Luke 6:41-42).
So, let’s begin there: confession and repentance of our own sin. And let us pray for God’s wisdom. Then, let’s engage in conversations with those who are willing to truly talk and not just posture. We should be able to do this in the church, don’t you think? And if we do, perhaps the world will take notice.