A pastor was giving the children’s message during church. For this part of the service, he would gather all the children around him and give a brief lesson before dismissing them for children’s church.
On this particular Sunday, he was using squirrels for an object lesson on industry and preparation. He started out by saying, “I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.” The children nodded eagerly.
“This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…” No hands went up. “And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…” The children were looking at each other, but still no hands raised. “And it jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…”
Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor breathed a sigh of relief and called on him. “Well,” said the boy, “I know the answer must be Jesus … but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me!”
Perhaps you’ve heard that joke, or a variation of it before, we call it the “Sunday School Answer” -it’s always Jesus. But perhaps in this case, He is the answer.
As the tragedy of the latest mass shooting unfolds in the news, it’s becoming an almost (fill in the blank) event -it’s the same event, different actors, different day, different location, and the same political solutions are bloviated over every media stream.
We don’t get this. We won’t get this. We cannot get this.
We must ask and answer the right question: “What is wrong with us?”
Let’s take a look at what we know is the common denominator in all of these situations. And, let’s look beyond the argument of the weapon used. Let’s look at the perpetrator. I think we can all agree, whether we are looking at a school shooter, nightclub shooter, or one of the many “van drives into crowd” individuals, each one is a severely troubled human being. But how did they get that way, and what can be done?
Rather than asking how we can stop the next one, which is a good question, but perhaps one more akin to a pain killer rather than a remedy, might we ask if there is something deeper that is broken, and can be fixed?
Anatomy of a murderer.
Perhaps if we go back and look at the story of the first murder, we might find a lost solution. Bear with me.
Cain and Abel
1 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. -Genesis 4:1-8 (NASB)
When we look at the motive of the incipient slayer we see three characteristics that may be common denominators with the contemporary manslayer. As we look deeper at them, we may also see a solution.
Condition number one: Jealousy
Cain was jealous because Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and his was not. There is an obvious theological implication here, regarding God’s choice of acceptable sacrifice, but let’s just take it for what it is, it’s simple jealousy. This is a base, but corrupt feeling that every human being, from an early age is plagued with. Webster defines jealousy as “resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage”. Today, we live in a paradigm, where success and advantage are celebrated above all, where popularity based on image, seems to be everything… it used to be celluloid, now it’s digital, and it’s pimped on every information device twenty-four-seven.
Condition number two: Anger
Whereas jealousy is a root, left unchecked it quickly becomes anger. James 1:2 says: “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.” James, although not a professional psychologist, arrives at a simple and undeniable truth, that anger stems from an unchecked lust for something denied. This is the same anger that is evident in the youngest child. We want, and when our want is denied, we throw a fit, and a grown up fit is no more complicated than that of a child, although infinitely more dangerous.
Condition number three: No self control
We are all susceptible to the first two conditions, regardless of what they taught you in school, but this component seems to be a missing element and common denominator in the anatomy of the violent individual. When God spoke to Cain, he saw his anger rising and He warned him, calling on him to master it. Alas, he did not, and so, his anger grew and it overcame him.
Now, there are a great many ways one can overcome anger and implement self control, but look at what God suggested: He said “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?”
What was that suggestion?
It might be the simplest thing we can imagine, I think it’s just obedience.
Was Cain capable of obedience? I suppose this gets to the heart of our theology: is God someone who commands what He does not enable? I believe, that He in fact does not command what He refuses to enable. This is the core of our Christian faith. If Cain had believed the Lord, and turned from his anger, God would have met him at that place and enabled his behavior to be better. Cain could have mastered it by trusting God.
So, what is the application, and how could this inform a solution in our secular culture? Well, there, I’ve let the cat out of the bag haven’t I?
The problem is, we’ve abandoned the only solution available -God. We’ve told one another for decades, that He doesn’t exist, and that even the memory of Him and His morality, must be eradicated from all public discourse and especially the sacred institutions of proper education. Without a foundation of a God, to whom we belong and are accountable, we have a moral house of cards.
Consider as a case in point, the current ridiculousness in Hollywood. An entire industry dedicated to godlessness, sexual promiscuity, violence, and all manner of material and moral excess, has all of the sudden been exposed for the moral corruption it promulgates -imagine that, a vivid lesson in decorous hypocrisy.
Imagine you are drowning in the sea and there is a lifeboat, but you refuse to get in, because you don’t agree with the idea of a lifeboat, you don’t want to be confined to it. Or, you are dying of a disease, but you are morally opposed to the only antidote available. In both cases, your stubbornness is a death sentence. These might seem to you to be silly analogies, but are they?
We must ask and answer the right question: “What is wrong with us?” Only then will we begin the difficult task of creating the necessary change.
Why is it a surprise to us that the offspring of our godless culture, behaves in godless ways? We no longer value marriage, the foundation of the family, and are surprised that families no longer function. We no longer value sexual morality, and are shocked that we no longer have sexual morality -or satisfaction. We no longer embrace God as Creator, and find that we have lost our identity as children made in His image. We celebrate violence, especially marketed to youth, then cannot understand why they are violent. We outlaw spanking as abusive, yet we fail to see the connection to undisciplined adolescent behavior. In every case, we have refused the lifeboat and the antidote.
Unless we, as a culture, are willing to face the deep moral questions rather than look for some expedient political solution, we are doomed to the fate of Cain. We must look back to God, and embrace the lost faith in Him as Father, Creator, Law Giver, and Friend. This is our moment to “do well”. It begins by acknowledging our need. We are broken and we are drowning, and we need a lifeboat, both personally and as a culture. Jesus is the lifeboat. He alone is the antidote. Perhaps Jesus is the answer.
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. -1 John 1:5-10
#Parkland #Florida #SchoolShooting #Jesus
Note: As a citizen, a gun owner, and a Pastor, I am in favor of more restrictive gun laws. This blog post isn’t about guns, it’s about the greater disease of the human heart. Cain didn’t use a gun.