"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God" (Romans 8:5-8).
Another tragic shooting and the politicians and media and others line up again to declare that we need to take away the guns. Is that REALLY the problem? I have never owned a gun, but with our nation and the world in the state it is, and growing worse, there may come a time. In the meantime, the arguments I hear for "gun control" are so misguided that it makes me wonder if those who are speaking are that ignorant of what the real problems are or if they just want to appeal to the greatest number of people who are on a "side" in the debate about gun control so that they can get re-elected. And when I hear people bring the Bible into the discussion and twist it to support a particular political agenda, it makes me angry and compels me to respond with truth!!
First, the problem is not guns, it's HUMAN NATURE!! The verses I quoted above reveal the truth that human nature is self-centered, not God-centered or even other-centered. Human nature is selfish and bent on having its own way. The increase in anger and violence in our culture is the natural outgrowth of a society that is determined to ignore God and to elevate the power of human wisdom. Within the heart and mind of every person is a natural inclination toward God, our Creator, but the sin within us refuses to acknowledge the truth, rather suppressing it, covering it up, denying it (Romans 1:18). In that same chapter, Romans 1, the Apostle Paul goes on to say,
"Although they knew God (deep inside), they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. ... Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts ..." (Romans 1:21-22, 24).
Human nature is turned away from God and toward self. Parents soon realize that allowing that nature to go unchecked leads to disaster. Toddlers and very young children will try to control their parents, the world around them and everything in it - when it is clear that they cannot even control themselves. Schools try desperately to help parents (or in too many instances be substitutes for parents) as they try to guide this sinful nature into some form of decent, acceptable behavior. By the grace of God, most people abide by the laws of man in order to avoid the consequences. Yet the sinful nature is rebellious at its core. Only the Spirit of God can change the heart and mind so that it WANTS to please God by obeying HIS laws. Yet we have removed the Bible from our schools and the majority of homes (even those who claim to be Christian) rarely if ever open it, ignoring God's command in Deuteronomy 6:6-9:
"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Only those who are born again by the Spirit of God, who have Christ dwelling in their hearts and who have their minds and hearts set on things above can win in the war against the flesh, the old nature of sin. No amount of willpower or good intentions or psychological warfare or social programming can do what the Spirit of God can do through His Word. The FIRST problem is that most in our nation "have a form of godliness but deny its power" (II Timothy 3:5). The result: People are "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (II Timothy 3:1-4). It's sad, but true!
We should not be surprised when people do horrible things. We should be thankful that God, in His grace, restrains people from being as evil as they COULD be! Those in churches who still hold to the truth of God's Word need to understand its power and teach their children and help parents to do the same. Together, we CAN make a difference! But does this leave us helpless to do anything else to stem the tide of violence that seems to have become almost a natural part of our everyday life? Are people right when they say we can expect more shootings and more violence? Isn't there anything else we can do?! Not everybody is going to come to know Jesus! What about the rest??
I would love to paint a pretty picture of the future, but God's Word does not allow me to do so. Truth is truth. There ARE, however, some other things that we as a society should focus on. One is mental illness and another is violent video games. In the last two shootings both of these have been factors in the lives of those doing the shooting. God tells us that those of us who know the truth are no longer in the darkness of the old nature of sin. We can see more clearly than others, not because we are so smart, but because God gives us wisdom by His Word and Spirit. Let's pretend for a moment that someone might actually listen to what I'm about to say. God says to those who believe in Jesus Christ and who know the true God, our Creator, "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:8-11).
The mental health community needs to take a hard look at the treatment of mental illness and the government, which has been given the role of protecting society, needs to take an active role in arriving at a way to identify those who have mental illness that has expressed itself in violence or appears to be heading towards violence, and then intervene. When mental health "professionals" are hindered from identifying potential "shooters" by privacy laws and mandated confidentiality, something needs to change. Sadly, even some of the medications that are given today can and do cause agitation, anger and even violence. This is very quickly becoming an epidemic. Many people are helped with certain medications today and are able to live relatively normal lives. However, extreme caution needs to be used and a closer monitoring by doctors, psychiatrists, parents, families and friends needs to take place.
In this latest instance the young man who killed twelve other people had reported that he was hearing voices and that people were after him. He had expressed his anger with gun violence before. With all of our modern technology, why are these signs not being put together so that proper action, even hospitalization or some other kind of strict monitoring, can take place. This is not everybody, but in virtually every one of the last several instances, mental illness has played a part and there was somebody, or several people, who knew of the problem and who had even been warned of the problem. We can do better, but someone has to take responsibility. Just blaming the problem on guns won't fix the problem. This was a rifle. Anyone can get one.
The second thing we can do is to eliminate completely the senseless violent video games that too many young people, especially young men, are drawn to. In case you haven't noticed, the rise in shootings has coincided quite closely with the promotion of violence in movies, television and video games. Most people may be able to differentiate between reality and fantasy, but those with a mental illness cannot do so. Even those who may simply be faced with bullying or isolation or a host of other negative social experiences can be moved to express their anger in violence. "Virtual violence" feeds the old nature of sin and removes the inhibitions that God has placed there to restrain evil activity. Parents and others must first of all monitor what their children watch/"play", and all of us should be demanding that these video games be outlawed.
"Freedom" is an elusive goal, because the sinful nature MUST be restrained. Absolute freedom does not exist. It hasn't since Adam and Eve first rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. As our society demands that a person's privacy be protected, even when they are an obvious threat to themselves and to those around them, we expose ourselves to the kind of violence we are seeing. When we refuse to confront sin and allow video games, movies, etc., to incite the sinful nature we set ourselves up for tragedy. It is just a matter of when and where the next one will be.
It's hard to know how to pray these days. I pray for the families directly touched by such senseless violence. I pray for a nation and its leaders as we move towards self-destruction in so many areas of life. I pray for the Church, for those who KNOW the truth because they know Jesus Christ and have been made "new creations" by the power of His Spirit at work within them. We have a job to do. We are called to be "light in the darkness" and that requires "speaking the truth in love" to all and pointing them to the only One who can help, to the One true God, our Creator, who has come to us through His Son Jesus Christ to lead us out of the darkness and into HIS light!!
Perhaps someone who is in a position to do something in our nation's government will read this, or perhaps enough people will pass it on to those in high places that people will begin to realize what the real problems are and try to address them. Meanwhile, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, let your light shine!! Tell people the truth and point them to Jesus. There is a new world coming soon; "a new heaven and a new earth ... the home of righteousness" (II Peter 3:13). Those who know Jesus will be there someday. God is with us, do not be afraid! He will rescue us and fill us with joy unspeakable. Serve Him today and be faithful in what He has called you to do. He IS LORD!!