Guest Author: Jason Sadler
Once people have responded to the shock of events like these recent school shootings with the question “How can this happen?,” they often move on to asking, “What can I do?” Debates rage at this moment about political issues for the purpose of preventing events like this from occurring in the future. But all of these debates miss the only fruitful discussion of what can yield actual results. The only discussion that can yield any results is a religious one. These are the only kind of things that can be done to prevent these heinous acts from happening again.
I freely admit, I don’t know how exactly how prayer can effect change in the lives of other people. But it’s not because I doubt God, it’s because I lack understanding. I may not fully grasp how prayer brings these changes about, I know that it can because the Bible tells me so! Speaking of oneself, James writes in James 1:5: But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him, and in 1 Tim 2:1-2, Paul writes of others, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Both of these passages demonstrate that if we are seeking to bring about change in our own lives or in the lives of others, prayer is the best place to start.
I know that God cannot suspend someone’s free will to bring about these changes, but I also understand that God’s providence extends beyond my understanding (Dt 29:29: The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. Is 55:8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.)
Because God’s ways transcend our understanding, we would do well not to tell him what he should do! People pray, “God, do this” or “don’t do that” hoping that their own beliefs and opinions would materialize rather than trusting in God’s understanding. Instead, our prayer should be for the realization of God’s will (1 Jn 5:14). Perhaps, it would be better to pray, “Be with those who pursue evil, and help them turn from their evil.”
Beyond prayer, we must teach people about Christ.
It’s typically the exception rather than the rule when someone says “I always thought he would do that” when confronted with the realization that someone we know has committed a heinous act. It’s a sobering thought that someone you know may be harboring this kind of evil thoughts when you don’t have any idea. The day after the shooting in Florida, a student at my old high school, and the high school where two of my nieces attend, was pulled out of school and the school was put on lockdown because of threats that he made. Often, when these things happen in faraway places, they seem unreal and unlikely. Sometimes, they hit close to home.
Teaching others about Christ, to those who are possibly pondering these things in our own communities, is the best way to prevent them from happening in the future. The political issues being discussed in our country right now are tertiary. They cannot solve the problem. They can only address the symptoms. The real threat in all these situations comes from the heart. Only the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Wonderful Counselor, can heal these diseases.
In 1 Pet 4:8, Peter writes “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” I don’t think it goes too far to say that love can prevent a multitude of sins by turning a soul away from the destruction festering in their heart. In 1 Tim 1:8-11, Paul writes, “8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.” We may think that we can never relate to a person of this heart, but remember that we are guilty of the blood of Christ. Some may suggest that these souls are beyond hope, but none reside outside the reach of God and Christ.
Finally, after these events have occurred, all we can do is show our love for all people, both the victims and the perpetrators.
It’s very easy to love those who suffer through events like these. In Rom 12:15, Paul writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” I don’t know who could witness the victims and families of this kind of evil and not experience heartbreak with them. I have no idea what could be done for people in these scenarios other than to be available. But I’ll tell you what, I would be willing to do any moral thing within my power to help! Unfortunately, we must acknowledge that none of these actions could lessen their grief.
One group that often gets overlooked in any mass shooting or violent act is the family of the perpetrator. We may not readily think of these individuals, but remember that wives lost husbands, mothers lost children, and children lost parents. Regardless of their shortcomings, these individuals represent love, memories, and in some cases their provider. Only when these individuals suffer, they often receive vitriol rather than consolation.
Finally, many people think that the perpetrators in these situations are undeserving of love, but those who do forget their place. All people have an equal claim to the gospel, and all people have an equal right to be forgiven which is to say none at all! No one is too base or too righteous for Christ. We all have an equal need for God’s grace which is to say totally!
No one was righteous when Christ died for them (Rom 5:6: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly). If you consider the fact that no one is righteous apart from the death of Christ, then it is impossible to have been righteous when Christ died for you. Someone, many, will say of the perpetrators in these school shootings that they deserve to go to hell. And they are right. People said that Osama bin Laden didn’t deserve heaven. And they are right. But what they say of those individuals is equal true of themselves and us all!
I’m not absolving people of their evil, but if we love because God first loved us (1 Jn 4:19), and God loves them equally as much as he loves us, then how can we deprive them of our love?
Nothing that any of us can do can eradicate evil because ultimately the decision to do evil rests with each person. None of us can reach into another’s heart, but if we do these things, we have a chance of making a difference in our communities and in the lives of all the people affected by these events. Most importantly, by doing these things, we can be a “light to the world” and serve as “ambassadors for Christ” and share God’s love among other people made in his image.