There is no easy resolution to the problem of public mass shootings because, at its core, it is a moral issue. As such, it is not something that can be legislated away. President Donald Trump rightly called the Las Vegas shooting an “act of pure evil.” Likewise, Carl Chinn, who runs an extensive database on violence at places of worship, said of the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting, “Evil has invaded the sanctuary”.
“Evil has invaded the sanctuary”. These were the words of Carl Chinn, who runs an extensive database on violence at places of worship, in the wake of the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting. This evil has invaded even our most sacred spaces because we as a nation have lost our fear of God and what it means to come before him in humility, faith, and heartfelt repentance. Even within the church, we have lost our fear of God. We have become like God’s people in Jeremiah 5:30–31, “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?”
According to researched conducted by the Barna Group, 90% of pastors believe the Bible addresses today’s key cultural issues, but less than 10% of pastors are teaching God’s Word regarding these issues.” Like the religious leaders in Israel, our spiritual leaders often ignore key aspects of God’s Word in favor of teaching things that make the people happy and comforted. They have emphasized cultural concerns, political correctness, and personal preference above the whole council of God’s Word.
In Jeremiah 5:21–25 God warns that when a nation loses its fear of God, its sins prevent God’s blessings:
“Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me? Declares the LORD. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the seas, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.”
In the case of the Israelites, there was:
- a lack of justice. “Run to a fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth that I may pardon her. … They judge not with justice” (Jer. 5:1–2, 28).
- a lack of truth. “Though they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ yet they swear falsely” (Jer. 5:2).
- a lack of repentance and a teachable spirit. “O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth? You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent” (Jer. 5:3).
- a lack of spiritual understanding. “Then I said, ‘These are only the poor; they have no sense; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God. I will go to the great and will speak to them, for they know the way of the LORD, the justice of their God.’ But they all alike had broken the yoke; they had burst the bonds” (Jer. 5:4–5).
- a lack of faithfulness to God. “Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods” (Jer. 5:7).
- a lack of faithfulness to their wives. “When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of whores. They were well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbor’s wife” (Jer. 5:7–8).
- a lack of concern for the needy. “[T]hey do not defend the rights of the needy” (Jer. 5:28).
- a lack of restraint. “They know no bounds in deeds of evil” (Jer. 5:28).
Because of these sins, God was compelled to withhold His blessings, “Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you” (Jer. 5:25).
Given the similarities between the sins of Israel and the sins of America, we ought to take heed. Sometimes terrible things happen because God is no longer shielding us from the effects of our sin. In such moments, we are confronted with the consequences of our rebellion to God, but it is God’s heart desire that we become alerted to the peril of resisting His commands and return to Him in repentance.
Traumatic events such as public mass shootings should serve as a stark reminder of what evil we are capable of when, as a church and as a nation, we lose our fear of the Lord. Truly, as God declares, our evil deeds know no bounds (Jer. 5:28).
This article is excerpted from the paper “Mass Shootings and the Search for a Quick Fix.”