San Bernadino. Paris. The Middle East. Look in the rear-view and we see Sandy Hook, Columbine at the previous intersection, and a highway behind us of people killing people. At every occurrence the world seems shocked and horrified, as if such things are surprising. But if we had been paying attention, this is exactly what we should expect. It makes perfect sense.
“… and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” – James 1:15
I’m going to pause for a moment so that I’m not mistaken for someone who has never experienced loss and therefore just blames abstract notions. I have friends who are dead – friends who are dead because someone decided to kill them.
But we know that these things should not be. Something inside us screams each time this happens: THIS SHOULD NOT BE. And yet it is, over and over and over. We’re right though, this should not be. But why should things be different, and more importantly, where did we go so very wrong?
There was a time, at the beginning, when we instead of going wrong we went right.
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them…
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:27, 31
Humanity was made to be in a perfect relationship of love with the One who made us and with one another. We’ve lost a sense of the first part, but most of us living on this world still have a firm idea on the second. We know we should have peace. We were made for it. And we all have the deepest longings to return to it. That is what it is that cries out within us when tragedy strikes. It is a remnant of the image that God has put in each of us. This is the only way to explain our outrage and horror at something that seems a part of daily life in a world without universal morality.
God has already told us where we went wrong.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Romans 5:12
Christianity has always had the answer as to why terrible things happen. Terrible things happen because we have let sin in. We opened the door and now it runs rampant through our world and through our hearts. Evil was explained long ago.
“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:17
Sin broke our relationship with God and with one another. It corrupts us. It takes what God has made and breaks and twists and mutilates until we are left with a horrible mockery of good – the final triumph being people who kill other people. We call them inhuman, monsters, the lowest form of life. We want to distance ourselves from them, to draw some line between the killer and us and proclaim that we are not them. But they are us. It’s not the quality of sin that differentiates us, but the extent. It’s a matter of degree.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21–22
Those were not the words of a wrathful Old Testament deity, but of Jesus. You see, we each need to be saved from the sin that is in us. Gun control might help. Improved mental health programs might help. Reduction of global warming might help. Better education might help. None of these things will get to the root though – sin has infested our souls. From the greatest societies of history, to the most corrupt realms of squalor; from the wealthiest families in Beverly Hills to the ones in the gutter two blocks away, there is one common and defining problem – sin. And if there’s anything that the entirety of a violent human history tells us, it’s that humanity’s best efforts are worthless to stop the effects of sin. It is paraded before us over and over again that all our money, technology, education, and reform will not stop people from killing other people. We are powerless.
Hope has been in front of us this whole time.
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:23-24
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
The God who made us was not content to sit idly by while His creation murders itself. He sent Jesus to earth on a rescue mission to save humanity from its own sin.
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh. – Romans 8:3
There is hope. For the last two-thousand years there has been hope. God can save us from our sin if we accept the gift that Jesus Christ brings. We’ll be celebrating Christmas in a few weeks. This remembers the moment where God initiated the salvation of the world.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:10–14
God is planning to restart creation. To wipe everything clean and destroy all that is evil. It will come, and those who have decided to enter back into relationship with God through Jesus can be a part of that.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:1-5
Christians, what have you been doing with this message?
I have a friend who was working down the street from the San Bernadino shooting. He was put in a safe room at work, and fed info digitally out to the world about what was happening. It was real. This person could have been killed. Not one of us saw this shooting coming, and there will be many more.
People you know will die. You know people who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus. What have you been doing? How can you keep this hidden? Why are you not screaming this from the rooftops?
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” – Matthew 5:14–15
You argue online with the very people who need to hear the grace of God. You change your profile picture to a different color, but stay silent on the only hope that can change the world. Are you scared? Are you discouraged? Have you lost hope yourself?
This Christmas, share the Gospel. Don’t engage in the culture war. Don’t worry about any attacks on your Christmas traditions. Instead, put your energy into telling people that no matter what they’ve done nor what’s been done to them, God loves them and wants to save them. We have a mission, and our time is short.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:17–21