The 365 days of 2015 have almost passed. In those 365 days we’ve had over 350 mass shootings in this country. There is no doubt we live in a culture obsessed with violence. The callous spirit that plagues our society breaks the heart of God and should disturb any follower of Christ.
“God Isn’t Fixing This,” a controversial headline calling attention to those on the political landscape who have not responded with much more than empty rhetoric concerning the issue of gun violence. In essence, the article expressed that “prayer” is not enough. Heated online reactions illustrate just how divided Americans are on the subject.
I grew up in the South. In the midst of all the southern charm guns are the norm. All of my immediate family members are gun owners (even my sweet mother). In fact some family members own a gun store where they sell firearms, ammo, hunting supplies, and all the accessories. I am accustomed to being around guns, yet there’s still something about them that have the ability to put me on edge.
Let me illustrate: When my son was in elementary school I remember him being invited to attend a birthday party at a friend’s house. When I took him to the party I went inside to meet the parents before leaving. There were guns everywhere: propped up in the corner, lying on the counter, hanging on the wall. I was too nervous to leave him.
Another illustration: Several years ago while preaching a revival in a rural North Carolina I went visiting with the pastor one afternoon. We visited the home of an obvious proud gun-owner. There were signs in the yard saying, “Forget the Dog, Beware of Owner” (with a picture of a six-shooter). Once inside, I noticed what seemed to be a stockpile of guns. Again, guns were everywhere.
Within five minutes of entering the home the conversation turned to “If they ever try to take my guns they’ll have to pry them out of my cold dead hands.” I thought to myself, “Really? Would I really be willing to die over gun ownership?” This kind of rhetoric certainly isn’t the mindset of anyone following Jesus: the One who laid down his life when he could have called an army of angels to his defense (Matt. 26:53).
My objective is not to give an opinion on whether current gun laws are sufficient, obviously something’s not working. My purpose is not to weigh in on whether or not some politician’s prayers are futile, I’m thankful people are praying. However, my intention is to say that neither a prayer offered on social media nor legislation is the problem, much less the answer.
The problem is sin. The problem is that we live in a culture fascinated with violence. The problem is that the wickedness of the human heart is beyond our ability to comprehend it. The sentiments of the weeping prophet remain true, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jer. 17:9, NLT).
With popular shooter games, epic sagas on the silver screen, and even programing on standard cable channels, our minds are continually filled with images of violence. Society at large has grown numb to brutality as we stare evil in the face without interruption. To be sure, 350+ shootings in 365 days would desensitize even the most sensitive person.
People are violent because they’re angry. People are angry because the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life fail to fill the void. People are angry because they are broken and don’t know how to fix themselves. People are angry because they are scared and feel powerless. People are angry because they’ve invested in a way of life that doesn’t satisfy. Praise God for showing us another Way.
The truth about American culture is that there is an epidemic of an unchecked spirit of violence. It’s seen in the everyday deeds of thousands of people. From bullying at school to the workplace, from road rage to sexual harassment, from child abuse to rape… Violence rules our culture. And while the violence may be extremely apparent in the United States, it is not our problem only; it plagues the majority of the world.
Without doubt, we should offer our prayers. And there are certainly some positive steps we can take regarding gun control while still upholding the Constitution. But make no mistake; the heart of the matter is a culture that sleeps easy while violence runs rampant. I think the challenge is reimagining our lives in light of Jesus and not allowing culture to determine how we think about important issues.
I disagree with the headline, “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The keyword is “this,” what is the “this” that needs fixing. I believe God is fixing this, wherever he is invited. God is breaking in on this through the Incarnation of Jesus. And the this that God is fixing is us, because we are broken and he is in the business of making things new.
(Sources: Doug Hopkins, Michael W. Austin and Ron Gleason “Gun Control Debate: Two Perspectives,” James Emory White “Church & Culture,” Daily News)