My heart broke along with yours as I watched the tragic events in San Bernadino unfold last Wednesday. 14 people were massacred and many others wounded in another senseless shooting.
The shooting triggered far too many memories of far too many massacres that have unfolded in the United States in recent years. Just a few months ago a similar tragedy unfolded that left 10 people dead at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.
Both events were at a level of malevolence beyond any earthly explanation or solution. Like a river of magma underneath the earth’s crust, unimaginable evil burst forth. Tragically, it’s eruption extinguished many precious lives and devastated countless others.
Almost seventeen years ago this same brand of depravity exploded at Columbine High School, 30 minutes down the road from where I’m typing these words right now. I knew many teenagers from that school and my wife was (and continues to be) a public school teacher in that same school district. That particular mass shooting impacted me to the point that I resigned my post as a preaching pastor in the Denver area to devote myself to do something about it by reaching the next generation with the good news of Jesus through the ministry of Dare 2 Share.
To this day, whenever a news story breaks about the latest mass shooting, my stomach drops and my heart aches for the victims and their families. And so does yours.
Our prayers go out for them all.
On Wednesday I sent out a Tweet that simply read, "#PrayforSanBernadino". Similar Tweets were sent from around the world.
But the cover of the New York Daily News screamed out on Thursday morning, "God isn't fixing this!" The mocking tone of the headline smacked the praying hands of those who Tweeted out prayer support for the victims in San Bernadino.
The implication of the article? That we must call for gun control and not just offer "thoughts and prayers" for the victims.
Chris Murphy, United States Senator from Connecticut Tweeted, "Your 'thoughts' should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your 'prayers' should be for forgiveness if you do nothing - again."
But is gun control really the answer? No.
Don’t get me wrong. It may be an answer, but it is not the answer. Preventing secretly radicalized Muslims (as the two shooters in San Bernadino appear to have been) or mentally unstable people (as the shooter at Umpqua Community College appears to have been) from having easy access to weapons may be part of an overall solution, but it cannot be the ultimate solution.
With over 200 million privately held guns in America, it cannot possibly be THE solution because, even with the strictest of laws, anybody who really wants a gun in America can find one, steal one or buy one from another criminal.
Just so you don’t think I’m speaking in a vacuum I want you to know that my own son and daughter attend a school campus where someone was shot and killed years ago by a former disgruntled student. As a parent I know the sting of “what if?” when it comes to gun violence.
After every violent incident experts propose solutions that range from stricter gun control laws to more counseling for psychologically unstable people to, in the case of San Bernadino, tighter immigration laws. But these solutions don’t solve the problem of evil boiling over in the human heart. Some solutions may slow or stem the problem…but they cannot solve it.
Henry David Thoreau said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, one strikes at the root.” The only thing that can strike evil at its root is Jesus Christ.
Yes we must pray but, as the New York Daily News headline implied, we must also take action! The question is what kind of action do we take? I'm convinced that a big part of the overall solution to violence in America is God's people rising up and reaching out to love our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends enough to share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with them.
If we really believe Romans 1:16, that the Gospel message is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes", then we need to share that message with everyone we can! We must take Gospel action!
As a kid growing up in the highest crime rate area of my city I watched as my violent family members (some of whom had been in serious trouble with the law) were one by one radically transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A preacher reached out to them with the Gospel and that message did what no government program could have ever done...it changed them from the inside out!
Once they became believers they brought countless others into that same saving relationship. Gang members, violent offenders and many, many more were brought from death to life as a result! That message of Jesus multiplied out until it impacted our entire community!
As an eye-witness to this brand of heart-level transformation I became convinced that the only way to truly change a person, a family, a community and a nation is through a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ!
That's exactly what happened in my family growing up. And behind it all was my grandma who refused to stop praying for our family and a preacher who was willing to do whatever it took to reach my family with the Gospel. God used both my grandmother's prayers to God and a preacher's passion for the Gospel to fix my family for good!
I'm convinced that God wants to fix this through us, his church. We are his hands, feet and voice to a lost and confused generation who have turned their backs on him.
There are over 300,000 churches in America! What if even 10% of them were activated to share the Good News every person within their reach? What if they became Gospel Advancing churches that prayed passionately but also took meaningful Gospel action to saturate entire communities with the hope of Jesus?
Would everyone accept the Gospel? Of course not. Even if many did, would that forever rid us of the possibility of mass shootings? No. But the Gospel has far more capacity to to curb crime and prevent violence than the strictest of Gun control laws could ever make or screening measures that the government could ever take!
Let’s do what only the church can do…let’s bring a real solution to a revolting problem. Let’s continue to pray and then let's strike at the root of evil by lovingly, humbly and relentlessly sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us!
That's how God wants to fix this!