When I saw the news yesterday about the school shooting in northern California, I was not shattered. When 26 people were killed in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last week, it felt was just another news story. Not long ago these types of news stories shattered us. Not any more. After the Las Vegas shootings in October Peggy Noonan commented:
I was not shattered. That shatters me. It was just another terrible story. It is not the new normal; it is the new abnormal and deep down we know it’s not going to stop. There is too much instability in our country, too much rage and lovelessness, too many weapons. (“The Culture of Death — and Disdain,” WSJ [Oct 5, 2017]).
When I found my heart becoming calloused, I knew that something was wrong. What do we do with the instability, rage and lovelessness in our nation? What do we do with our own calloused hearts?
We can blame others for the liberal gun laws in America and renew the debate on gun control. This debate does have a place, but it is not the entire story. We can distract ourselves with cat videos or watching Netflix. But neither of these deal with the root issue.
Jesus comments on the prohibition on murder 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” (Matt 5:22). The thoughts of the heart are as deadly as the acts of the hand. If so, I am Devin Patrick Kelley. I am Stephen Paddock.
Yet I don’t want to deal with the angry thoughts in my heart and the insulting words from my mouth. I want to blame these thoughts and words on a bad day, on the actions that others have done to instigate those responses. I want to insist, “I’m not like them.” But is that true? What do we do with the ugly junk that comes up inside of me when I am disappointed, when I am cut off in traffic, when I don’t get what I want?
Jesus goes on to say, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt 5:23–24). We need to keep short accounts. We must deal with the broken relationships around us. We must recognize our need for grace, our need for forgiveness. When the ugly junk rears its ugly heads, we must not deceive ourselves but repent.
Jesus Christ not only died to reconcile us to God. He died to reconcile us to one another. There is power in the cross to transform the Devin Patrick Kelley within me. Jesus transformed the murderer Saul into the missionary Paul. As we see the brokenness of the world in the news, let us also see the brokenness of the world in our own hearts. Let us repent and draw near to God.