A Biblical Response To School ShootingsJeremiah 17:5–10
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith
As you are all aware, another mass shooting took place this week. This time it occurred in Parkland, Florida. Though all life is sacred, what make it most distressing is that a school was the target and seventeen innocent children lost their lives. Based on fatalities, the recent tragedy is the fourth worse school shooting in American history.(1)
That there is a problem here is one of the few things all Americans can agree upon. But if you are following popular culture, the solution to the problem is as varied as a large box of Crayons. As a matter of fact, there so much divergence in opinion, so much dogmatism that one’s beliefs are infallible and so much attack on any opposing arguments, that many Americas are simply tuning things out. To many the situation appears hopeless and I think our country is beginning to accept this as the new normal.
Admittedly, I am no expert in this area. Yet there is one Person who knows why these things are taking place. And He is willing to speak to us if we can humble ourselves and take a minute to listen to His voice. Obviously that Person is God and He does speak to us through Scripture which is sufficient to address this situation.
So with the time we have available, I’d like to take a few minutes to address some biblical components that may shed some light on this issue. This will not be an in-depth investigation. This will not address everything that needs to be discussed or answer every question you might have. I am just looking for pertinent practical considerations from the Scriptures which many people have overlooked.
Let me preface our discussion by saying the solution must be deeper than an immediate band-aid.
The core primary problem with our society is not guns. It’s sick hearts. As I read earlier from Jeremiah 17, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick (Jer. 17:9). When a sick heart wants to create carnage it will find a way to do so.
So eliminate AR rifles and you still have handguns, which by the way are also semi-automatic, easier to conceal and over 20 times the weapon of choice for murderers.(2) So maybe we should get rid of guns altogether? Research has stated that there are an estimated 357 million firearms in America, that’s one gun to every citizen.(3) We need to continue the discussion regarding strict background checks, but the bottom line is with 357 million guns out there, sick heart will be able to locate one. And if it’s not a gun, sick hearts will devise others means that can result in mass carnage.
Do we need more laws? Maybe, but let’s not overlook the obvious. Lawbreakers do not follow the law! Will a lawbreaker bent on destruction turn his gun over? Will he avoid a school shooting because the sign out front says, “Gun Free Zone?”
So how can we change the heart? I’ll get to the ultimate way eventually, but let me share some principles from God’s Word that are largely ignored specifically by our culture because we’ve ignored God and turned to man-centered solutions that are simplistic, easy to manage and political.
Number One – we need to get back to honoring authority. Romans 13:1, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Titus 3:1-2, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient. To malign no one.”
Because our hearts are so sick, God had to create two tracks to restrain violence. One is the conscience (we’ll come back to that) and the other is civil authorities. From the President to local police officers, they are ordained by God for our protection. For a safe society we need to uphold these individuals and the way we do that is by showing them the respect and honor they deserve and God commands.
I am saddened by the trend in our country to attack our President. I didn’t say disagree. I do not agree with everything he does and often I disapprove of the way he articulates himself. But the vicious, insulting, degrading and vile attacks on the man are unbiblical and counterproductive to unifying our nation. God does not approve. Romans 13:2, “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God.”
Do we really want law and order in our country? We can advocate for a better judicial system that convicts and punishes lawbreakers, but it needs to start with respecting those in charge of administering law and order! Leaders should be respectable, but either way we are called by God to respect those who have authority over us. Parents, you can’t trash the rulers (the government, the school teacher, the military and the church pastor) and then expect your children to have any respect for following the rules! Also, why would they then submit to your authority?
Number Two – God gave us His two greatest commandments in Matthew 22. The first is to love Him with all our heart and the other is to love others as we love ourselves (Mt. 22:37-39). You can turn to Philippians 2 and see that we are actually called in “humility of mind [to] regard one another as more important than ourselves” (Phil. 2:3).
Obviously grabbing a gun and randomly blowing people away in mass carnage is a violation of loving others. But it never starts that this point. It starts with a heart that already has a predisposition ultimately love oneself, to make oneself number one and set one’s own rules to the disregard of others. Then when the worship of self is simply accepted, it manifests itself in different ways. And we as a society have tolerated it and even promoted it.
For example, how have we tolerated the hate toward others? We laugh at the crude putdowns and call it comedy. We treat others rudely with insensitivity to their perspective and called it debate. We destroy other’s property in the streets and call it justifiable anger or justifiable celebration. We demonize our opponents and call it free speech. We gossip and slander others and call it news. We attack people of faith in the most vicious ways and call it liberation. We kill babies and call it choice.
My friends, according to the Bible, every person is a special creation of God, personally stamped with His image. Our Lord’s response is to love all people and treat them in a way we would like to be treated. It’s to respond with good for evil, blessing for insult; love extended to those we deem offensive and opposition.
We have a problem with self-worship. The reason a bully picks on a kid in the playground is the same reason a girl is depressed because she thinks she’s ugly is the same reason we lust for more expensive toys is the same reason we get upset if people don’t read our Facebook posts is the same reason people shoot people in the schools. It is because we believe this world revolves around “me!”
So what are we doing to resolve this? Nothing! We are even promoting self-worship! We’re teaching self-esteem! That is just a fancy way of saying, put yourself first and make sure everybody in your life does it as well. Others are only there to meet your needs. What are we hearing today? The world must revolve around you. Everybody has to win a trophy. Nobody can feel offended. “Safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” on college campuses. “Privilege” indoctrination. Listen, people need to realize you are not that important and life is not fair!
Only God can teach us the art of self-forgetfulness which is the liberating ability to not think of myself too highly or not think of myself too lowly, but rather to simply stop thinking of myself so much so I can fulfill the Greatest Commandments by thinking of God and others more.
Number Three – These events happen because people have depraved hearts capable of the vilest evil imaginable. And they can kill people because their conscience has no regard for the sanctity of human life.
God put a tremendous premium on human life. He calls us to extend the greatest care toward those often marginalized and rejected by our society – the elderly, the orphan, the widow, the child, the outcast, the poor. But most importantly, how can we have any respect for human life when we have legalized and even promoted, profited from and celebrated the killing of our unborn children?
How can we as a nation tolerate the murder of over 3,000 babies each day (22% of all pregnancies) and then expect people to think life is sacred?(4) How can the sanctity of life take effect if we cannot protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us? Are we a civilized nation when children are barbarically exterminated up to the point of conception sometimes simply because they happen to be of an unwanted gender?
Just two weeks ago a bill called the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” was introduced prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, a period well after a heartbeat and after the point a baby can experience pain. I am saddened to say that nearly half of our US Senators voted against it.(5) Where is their moral high ground for them to preach on the need for less bloodshed in the schools? Only six other nations in the world tolerate abortions after 20 weeks.(6) What lesson are we sending to our young people?
Number Four – The Bible teaches the principle that all victories in righteous behavior must begin in the mind. Our thinking will influence our affections which will dictate our actions. Or we can say, sick actions come from a sick heart that is fueled by a sick mind. Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way.” Our mind is like a computer; good in, good out – garbage in, garbage out. Therefore we need to dwell on, Philippians 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” We go through life and, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” We need to avoid the things that corrupt, the things that draw us away from the beautiful will of God. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
So how do we keep our minds pure? How do we prevent our already corrupted hearts from hardening and consciences from being defiled? How do we prevent ourselves from being led down the paths of sin, namely violence?
Simple, we engage in positive and honorable activities that build each other up. We serve one another. We look to infuse our brains with wholesome thoughts with games we play and the books we read and television shows we watch. On the negative side, we don’t partake in movies that exploit a women’s body or glorify violence. A woman is not a sex object and a person is not to be killed, especially in the name of entertainment.
I was reading this week how radical Islamic terrorists desensitize the minds of their young recruits. I saw their textbooks using pictures of handguns and tanks to teach mathematics.(7) They have children kill animals and watch public displays of violence, everything from torture and executions. One author even said, “Their latest video isn't that horrific or extreme, but it is bizarre. It’s three and a half minutes of Grand Theft Auto 5, cut and edited in a way to try and recruit new, young members into the extremist organization.”(8) They are using American video games!
How far are we as a nation from doing this to our young children? First person shooter games that are super realistic with graphic violence. Sure, not all who play violent video games go out and shoot people, but do you think you can keep doing this over and over and not have it desensitize your heart? It’s this a common trend marking all these mass murderers?
According to Nielsen Research, parents spend 3.5 minutes with their children each week in meaningful conversation. The average child watches 1,680 minutes television each week. Throughout that television time, the average child will witness 8,000 murders before he or she finishes elementary school and they will witness 200,000 violent acts.(9)
Number Five – Along these lines, we need better parenting. We need more quality instruction, quantity time, personal example, discipline and family enjoyment. That’s a sermon for another day.
One more and we will get to the heart of the analysis. Number Six – Our nation has abandoned God. And it’s not that we just turned our back on Him, we are actually running as far as we can from Him.
You see, the Bible teaches that God gives common grace. Common grace is not saving grace, but grace that promotes civility and general morality and harmony and clear thinking in a society – I’m sure those of you over 40 can remember an America like this! My friends, we have lost these traits. Why, because we as a nation have lost God.
We’ve told God that He’s no longer welcome in our schools and public discourse and courtrooms and political platforms. We’ve hardened our hearts toward Him, which has resulted in God further hardening our hearts through what we call His wrath of abandonment. Basically God gives us over to the depravity of our hearts. The general restraint is removed and we run headlong into accepting and promoting more perverse sin. School shootings are just a symptom of that.
God’s Word in Romans 1 explains it much better than I can. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:18-32).
Lastly, Number Seven – If we desire true healing and direction, ultimately the only hope is that we turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. As I stated in the beginning, we are born with sick hearts that will naturally produce bad fruit. We can agree that temporary solutions will offer a little help and not every heart is as sick as a school shooter, but we also need to agree that compared to God our hearts are flawed.
God is not into temporary solutions nor is He into grading us on a curve. God is into total heart transplantation. And that is what He provides for us in Jesus Christ. God takes out the old heart and replaces it with a new heart (Eze. 36:26). We call that conversion or regeneration or being born again.
“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Col. 1:21-22).
Our sin condition is depraved and desperate it required the death of God Himself on the cross to pay for our sins and offer us forgiveness. We get that and a new heart when we receive Jesus Christ by faith to be our Lord and Savior.
Titus 3 sums it up so well. “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:3-7).
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