By Dan Franklin
Many of us have responded with a heavy heart to the news of yet another mass shooting in our country. This time it took place at a Florida high school, and it claimed the lives of at least 17 people. Inevitably, fallout from the incident has brought political waves. Discussions of guns and mental health have taken center stage. While these discussions can be fruitful and necessary, I want to present a gospel-driven response to incidents like this one. By this, I mean events that represent acts of profound evil from unexpected sources. I believe that the gospel of Jesus leads us to an ability not only to evaluate what has happened, but to think through how we move forward.
The Problem Is Within
Discussions of policies are good and necessary, but they do not address the key problem that is presented in the message of Jesus. According to him, the reason people perpetrate evil acts is not simply because of a negative environment or because of tempting opportunities.
It is primarily because of the brokenness and evil inside each one of us. We are all rebels against God. We are all slaves to sin, compelled to do its bidding. Jesus’ message is that the main problem in the world is not weapons, bad parenting, poverty, or any other social structure.
Our main problem is that we are estranged from God and in need of redemption.
While this does not mean that there isn’t value in dealing with societal structures (they can certainly be better or worse, depending on the culture), it does mean that the primary blame does not reside with politicians, gun dealers, or the FBI.
The primary blame goes on the young man who walked into a school and shot people. This was an act of profound evil, and it is a reminder that our biggest problem is not the environment outside of us, but the wickedness within.
This is not meant to lead to a fatalistic attitude. At the same time, gospel-believing Christians should not be shocked by acts of evil, even when they are perpetrated by seemingly-normal people. We all have the capacity for great evil and violence.
Christ Is Our Only Hope
The reason the gospel of Jesus is “good news” is that it not only diagnoses our problem, but it offers hope. It offers Jesus Christ as our only hope. Only he can reconcile us to God and fix what is broken. Only he can fill the void that is left by our estrangement from God.
When we embrace Jesus, we receive not only forgiveness for our sins, but also adoption into the family of God. We also receive the Holy Spirit who leads us and empowers us to win the victory over sin.
In the aftermath of great evil, Christians everywhere should (1) hold more closely to the gospel of Jesus, realizing that we are all lost without him, and (2) boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus to others. If we are concerned with the evil in the world, then we must point people toward a way to solve the internal problem that brings about this evil.
Our hope is not in a politician, a new policy, or armed security. Our hope is in Christ alone. And, thankfully, this hope that he gives transcends death, so we don’t have to despair of the danger we and our children face in this world.
Communities Create Culture
This point may seem out of step with the first two, but let me explain. The gospel call of Jesus is not simply a call for individuals to personally repent of sin and place their faith in Jesus. It is also a call to repent from our involvement in a perverse generation (Acts 2:40) and to identify with the community of Jesus, which is his church.
In other words, Jesus not only brings us hope for life after death in the family of God, but Jesus brings us right now into his community. And in this community, we love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, confess our sins to one another, and serve one another.
Those of us who identify with the local church have a calling to create a counter-culture from the world. While the world may celebrate casual sex and divorce, we treasure purity and commitment in the church community. While the world may be filled with disrespect and anti-authoritarianism, we treasure kindness and order and submission to authority in the church community. And while violence may fill the streets in our world, in the church we seek to cultivate an environment of peace, forgiveness, and healthy relationships.
While environment is not a guarantee against acts of evil, it is profoundly important. In our families, in our small groups, in our student ministry, and in all our interactions, Christians have a calling to cultivate an environment that gives people a legitimate alternative to the immorality, violence, and emptiness that our world offers.
We can have no guarantee that we can do anything to stop the next attempted mass shooting. We can—and should try—but we are limited creatures. What we can do is cling to Jesus as our only hope, fight the sin within ourselves, proclaim the gospel call, and cultivate communities where Jesus’ values are treasured and lived out.