America, We Have a Problem … (Focus On Grace, May 2013)

You pretty much have to be living in a cave these days to miss the fact that there is a raging debate in our country about gun control. There has been horrific story after horrific story about fatal shootings, the worst of which, in many eyes, that ended in the death of twenty children and six adults in an elementary school in Newtown, Ct. There have been others; most of them have been seared in our memories as they happened, and no few of them involved children and young people. One view of the gun control debate says that shootings like this can be prevented if we crack down on gun sales and restrict them further, perhaps eliminate them. Another side says if even more people were armed, they could protect the innocent more readily when a crazy person storms in, guns blazing. Yet another take on the debate is that it doesn’t matter what kind of gun ownership is illegal or not, because those inclined to use them criminally are already criminals … what do they care if they break another law?

None of these views are entirely without merit, and none of them really cover the entire matter. Lawmakers all agree on one point: it’s a complex issue. News coverage and media opinions, almost always biased towards one side of the debate or another, tend to play that down and try to make it look like the politicians are seeking a cop-out, but it’s the truth that it’s complicated. And what about the acts of violence that don’t involve guns? In early April, a college student is alleged to have sliced up more than a dozen people with a hobby knife. More recently, there were the bombs made from pressure cookers, of all things, that killed three and maimed many others at the Boston Marathon. Yet no one is seriously talking about regulations to control X-Acto knives or pressure cookers. Why the focus on guns?

In my opinion, to a large degree, people are reacting to the gun control question with sentiment and emotion, not reason and facts. And that goes for all sides of the debate, because the arguments neglect the fact that guns are not the real problem … not any more than hobby knives are the problem, or pressure cookers are the problem. The real problem, the one that’s not being talked about very much, is that there are people so self-centered that they think it’s somehow all right to violently lash out at others when they can’t get what they want out of life. And those looking on and passing judgment, would far rather blame an object than admit it is a human flaw that is causing the trouble.

Because it’s not a new problem. Abel never did anything to his brother Cain that we know about, but when God rejected Cain’s offering but accepted Abel’s, Cain was so thoroughly upset that he murdered him (Gen. 4:3-8). And that was the very first generation of humanity. Cain’s kind of reaction has existed in history ever since, to one degree or another, and now we are seeing it on a regular basis. Report after report hit the news of disgruntled employees, or former employees, shooting up the people they worked with; or teenagers gunning down their classmates, or stabbing them. It’s happened enough with post office workers that we even call a certain class of violent rages “going postal.” And the heart of it is pure envy. What these people are saying, with their violent acts, is essentially, “I’m unhappy with my lot in life, and therefore I’m going to make others unhappy too” … which they accomplish in an utterly reprehensible fashion. Yet somewhere deep inside, they must feel justified, and that they have a right that was denied them, and their actions are somehow making it right.

And the simple fact of it is they are not. Its seems obvious enough from the outside, when you are looking at an extreme case like a mass shooting, or a bombing, but how about when it’s just office gossip about the young go-getter who passed someone up for a promotion? Or that snide over-the-fence chat with a neighbor about just how the fellow two doors down could possibly have afforded that new car? Or that catty remark in church about that person who seems just a bit too together than could possibly be for real? All of it is envy, and though the degree of it varies so greatly, the core is the same, and it’s all poison. And why are we surprised, when we allow all the little poisons to spread so freely, that every now and then, someone who is broken or pushed beyond their limits, let’s a whole lot of it spill out?

We need to remember what God said to Cain, before he let his particular poison bear its fruit: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7). There is no place for envy in our lives to any degree, because if we give it a place, it will rule over us. And if we do well for ourselves, we can rejoice that others do well too. There is only one way for us to accomplish that, and it is to, “… above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful,” (Colossians 3:14-15).

Yes, America has a problem, and America is not alone. The problem in the simplest terms, is sin. And the answer can only be Jesus, and the fruit borne of His Spirit in our lives as we learn to love others as He has loved us.

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One Response to America, We Have a Problem … (Focus On Grace, May 2013)

  1. DHawthorne says:

    Note this was originally published in May of 2013, and some of the references are more than a year old as of this posting. Similar incidents seem to be proliferating, not waning, in that time, and as a nation, we seem to be utterly stuck on trying to legislate our way out of the problem. We badly need to mend people’s hearts instead, and only the Lord can manage that.

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