This is more than another shooting, more than another church shooting, more than another senseless act of violence, and more than news cycle shock and awe.
As many of us watched the attacks of September 11, 2001, there was collective agreement that the acts of terror on that day were “evil.” Until then, many Americans only viewed evil as an abstract idea, a trivial work of an almost-fictional devil. Evil was something on the periphery of our progressive, affluent lifestyle. It was the punch line on Halloween or in the movie theater. It was real, but it’s relevance bowed to our modern sophistications.
Evil was something on the periphery of our progressive, affluent lifestyle. It was the punch line on Halloween or in the movie theater.
And then we watched real people in real time jump to their death from their World Trade Center office windows. Evil was no longer trivial. On that day, we could see and feel the hate and destructive force of evil, and we quickly responded with remarkable resilience. Although thousands of families were forever scarred by the events of that day, the rest of us donated time and money and then, by necessity, we moved on.
That was the first time since World War II that our nation had felt the blunt force trauma of evil. On the heels of the allied victory over the Third Reich, the 1950’s and 60’s in America was an era of rebuilding the financial strength and moral courage of the nation. But it didn’t take long for the next generation to forget how evil looked and felt.
We fell in love with soda shops, fast cars, and new music. It was a renaissance of sorts. Perhaps the decision to “Leave It to Beaver,” however, wasn’t as helpful as we expected. While learning the Twist, we were also feeding both a sexual revolution and philosophical evolution that laid the groundwork for a new era of evil.
We were, by and large, still going to church on Sundays, so there was a lot to feel good about. It appeared the ills of society were just on the fringe. The Kennedy assassinations, the Vietnam War, the race to space and nuclear threat of the Soviets, along with the civil rights movements were all reckonings, but at least the homeland was secure.
We were, by and large, still going to church on Sundays, so there was a lot to feel good about. It appeared the ills of society were just on the fringe.
Our children went to Sunday School on one day of the week and heard how God created the world, how sin marred it, and how Jesus came to rescue us and restore his creation. And then for five other days, our kids began to embrace another religion altogether. This religion contended that human origins were not divine, but chaotic, and that we actually evolved from lower life forms. So rather than having value as image bearers of God, humans were considered mere mutations.
Many seminaries bowed to this neo-liberalism and graduated pastors who led their churches to embrace it as well. Churches, however, that did hold to biblical foundations were often unprepared to effectively engage in the public square. As a result we reared an American generation that devalued one another to the point we sanctioned the extermination of what is now 50 million innocents of our own through the practice of abortion. We embraced a sexual revolution that abolished the unique dignity and diversity of men and women, which naturally required we abandon God’s design for marriage as well.
We embraced a sexual revolution that abolished the unique dignity and diversity of men and women, which naturally required we abandon God’s design for marriage as well.
So today we are watching more than another community ravaged by a senseless shooting. We are watching and feeling the violence of sin. This is what it looks like. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10, emphasis mine).
America was founded, largely, by men and women who either revered the Bible or at least willingly yielded to the tenets of Scripture. Their respect for God and their knowledge of good and evil made us a good nation that allowed us to become a great and safe nation. The shining seas on the east and west, the economic engine of the Industrial Revolution, and the resolve of our military force kept danger at arms length for over 200 years. Even the recent war on terror was an attempt to keep the battle against evil on the foreign fields of the globe. We actually created the Department of Homeland Security to build a moat around our bastion of freedom and prosperity.
The shining seas on the east and west, the economic engine of the Industrial Revolution, and the resolve of our military force kept danger at arms length for over 200 years.
But the work of the devil is not only through opposing armies or rogue terrorists. In many cases, we’ve been the devil’s Trojan Horse, and his work of evil is now among us. He is at work in the homeland, and he will not be marginalized by new, even appropriate, legislation, by new, even helpful, security measures, or by new, even heartfelt, sympathies.
The devil comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. Violence against image bearers of God is his only business, whether in our homes, schools, churches, at concerts, or in a mother’s womb. There are no random acts of the devil. He is a patient and ruthless technician. He will take as long as necessary while moving as quickly as possible. His mission is to amuse that he may win us until he can destroy us.
That’s why the Good News is so good. That’s why God’s grace is so amazing. The enemy wants to destroy us and possesses great power to do us harm, but Jesus is not overcome. He defeated sin, death, and the devil to give life and life abundantly to every sinner who will turn and trust him. He crushed the head of Satan, and clutches victory with the power of his might.
The enemy wants to destroy us and possesses great power to do us harm, but Jesus is not overcome.
Jesus’ victory at the Cross is not a sentimental teddy bear that soothes inconsolable pain and suffering. Neither is it a call to a higher form of moralism. His victory, instead, is substantive, rooted in the eternal work of God. It is completely sufficient for every ill and evil that marks the human experience.
That’s why Frank Pomeroy, pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and father to a deceased 14-year-old daughter can point people to Jesus Christ in the wake of overwhelming loss. He is not simply coping; he knows victory in Jesus. The enemy’s best effort is no match for the person and finished work of Jesus.
So we have a decision to make. We can double down on the fiction that our safety is secured through the valiant pursuit of self-actualization complimented by a dab of moralistic religious ideology, or we can repent of that self-delusion and turn to Jesus, who alone rescues us from evil and its every consequence to give life and life abundantly.
It’s always been a matter of life and death. We just didn’t know it or maybe we just didn’t believe it, but maybe this can be more than another shooting. Perhaps it can be the beginning of another great awakening that turns the heart of a nation to trust in Jesus who alone rescues from evil.
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