America is facing the aftermath of yet another shooting.
Two, in fact — one in El Paso, Texas, Saturday, and another in Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday. The latest reports say 31 people are dead from these two horrific incidents, which also left more than 50 others injured.
Typically, I stay away from the discourse when events like this happen and keep my opinion to myself. Yet this time I feel compelled to write, but not for the reasons one would expect, which would be for me to either take the side of “more gun legislation” or “more guns in more places” — both of which, their respective advocates say, would save lives.
I’m writing because of what I saw — and, for a while, wrongly took part in — as I spent Sunday afternoon looking for news articles, political cartoons and opinion pieces related to the shootings to potentially run in Monday’s paper.
I was not at all surprised, when I visited Twitter to find information on the shooting, to see vitriol, hate, anger and filth being slung around by numerous commenters on the site. These people were pointing fingers at who they felt was to blame for the shooting. Many claimed President Trump and the Republicans were responsible. Many others claimed the Democrats were responsible.
As I read some of the comments, I began to engage in it too. Not on the platform itself, but in my own heart and mind. As I began to form my own opinions of which side was at fault, I realized what was happening, and I became convicted that the finger-pointing and blaming — no matter who you are condemning — is wrong. And doing so will not bring a solution to the problem. All that does is widen the gap in an already divided nation.
I saw myself doing that very thing, and realized I needed to stop. Immediately. Blaming this person or that person, this party or that party, for these horrific acts is not the solution. The blame, at the end of the day, falls on the individuals who committed the murders. Whether they were influenced or not, it was ultimately their choice — and nobody else’s — to take the lives they did.
Everyone has an idea for a solution. “Take all the guns away!” “Give everybody guns to defend themselves!”
Allow me to offer a different one: We must return to caring about those around us, and practice what the Bible says in the book of Matthew: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
While I don’t want to paint every person in America with this broad of a brush, it seems to me that in many areas we have largely gone away from this concept of showing love to those around us. We are more selfish than ever. We are more brash. More vile. More godless. Angrier. Full of hate. More deceitful. More malicious. More heartless. More ruthless.
Those last four words — deceitful, malicious, heartless and ruthless — are from a list at the end of Romans 1 of at least a dozen words or phrases that describe those who reject God. Read that list, then consider our country.
Consider this, as well: A person who would choose to murder, whether it’s a single individual or 31 like these two shooters over the weekend, is godless, even if they claim to know God. That may seem harsh. But that is what the Bible itself says. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him”
(1 John 3:15).
The reason these shootings and other murders continue to happen is because we have turned our back on God as a nation. This is especially true of those individuals who would carry out an act like this. A person who truly knows God, who “love(s) the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 23:37) and who “love(s) your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 23:39), could not perform such a heinous act. The kind of love missing in this country is selfless love. It’s an action that seeks the best for those around us — not one that seeks to destroy or is solely focused on self.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). If shootings are to stop, we need God back at the center of this nation and its policies. We need restoration that can come only through repentance and turning to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. He alone is the one who puts the love of God in our hearts. Yes, people who don’t believe in God can show love as well (and choose not to murder), but when you have God’s love, you will be able to show love to your neighbor in a way you’ve never known before.
It starts with each of us making that choice to love as Christ loved us — by giving himself for us. This means we need to lay down our pride. This means not pointing fingers at those we disagree with politically, religiously or otherwise, and instead extending an olive branch of peace. It starts with me showing the love of Jesus and not condemning those who have ideas that are different than my own. And it starts with us choosing not to hate each other. It’ll only happen, though, with each of us individually selecting this path. Love each other. Love your neighbor. Love your friend. Love your enemy. Doing so will be the start of bringing healing to our nation.