This past week, there have been numerous acts of violence making national headlines. Ralph Yarl is a 16-year-old Black teenager who was shot by a homeowner in Kansas City, Missouri, after he accidentally went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings. Twenty-year-old Kaylin Gillis of Schuylerville, New York was shot and killed in a car that mistakenly pulled into the wrong driveway. Cheerleaders Payton Washington and teammate Heather Roth were shot and wounded when Payton got into the wrong car by mistake.
In North Carolina, a six-year-old girl, her parents and an additional neighbor were shot after a basketball rolled into a neighbor’s yard. These attacks have called for more demands on gun control, but I believe the issue is one that is multifaceted. It is truly an issue that requires an examination of both our obsession as a culture with guns but also deeper exploration into our hearts. We have become so fearful that we are willing to take the lives of others.
We are more afraid of people than we are of God’s laws. We don’t love others and instead of believing the best in others, our society focuses more on what’s wrong with people than choosing to see what is right. We ‘other’ people and as a result, we don’t see their lives as valuable as our own. We can dismiss others because we don’t see them as important and that’s because at the core, we do not believe that each of us is created in the image of God.
Scripture reminds us that what we are seeing is not catching God off guard. God is not alarmed by this behavior but has warned us that this is a result of our behavior and our lack of respect for ourselves and each other. “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power,” 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
God is still in control, but we must recognize that our actions have consequences. When we witness these awful events, we always talk about offering our prayers—but our faith without action is dead. We must do more than pray, offer condolences and go back to living our lives without any responsibility or accountability for ourselves and to one another. It’s imperative that we do not just sit back as believers and accept what we are seeing.
It’s important that we look in the mirror and recognize that just as we are witnessing so much evil in the world, we need to be mindful of our contribution to either making the world better or worse. It’s so easy to think that our missteps are minor. We have the tendency to weigh some transgressions as worse than others. To God, sin is sin. When we make these choices to go against God, we disrupt our relationship with God and with others.
We are also not exempt from the consequences of our decisions. We each make choices daily and so often, we choose to exclude God from those decisions. “The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer,” James 1:13-15. Our churches no longer focus on these issues.
We want everyone to be happy and prosperous while people are hurting and dying because of our unwillingness to speak truth to power. Those of us in the pews don’t want to hear about the results of our actions and choices. We are more interested in being entertained than really examining our love walk. Until we are willing to deal with our hearts as a society, we must be prepared to experience more of the same.