“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
It seems appropriate to begin today with this verse from my last post. It is a tragic, sad, horrendous thing that has happened in Boston today. My heart goes out to those in mourning, and to those whose lives will be affected by this act of violence as they live with injuries, traumatic memories and anxiety. I pray for healing from those things.
It’s one of the things that shouldn’t be. Like the violence at Newton, and Aurora, and New York City, and Columbine, and Oklahoma City, and the list goes sadly on. Like the acts of violence that occur every day in other parts of the world but aren’t reported here or we don’t take the time to think about because it’s easier to stay in our safe little bubble. But there is no bubble. Violence is happening here, too. These horrible bombings and mass shootings. The violence, abuse and neglect that happen daily in our very own neighborhoods, and all around the globe. How long, tragically long the list is, it’s enough to break your heart, make you sick. It makes us wonder, how could someone do something like this? Just, how? How does a person get to the point where they have no regard for other people’s lives?
As I wondered today about whether I should write tonight, the thought that came to my mind was about the hardening of hearts. People do unthinkable things like this when their hearts have become hardened to what is good, when their consciences become seared after being ignored for too long.
It happens to us, too. Our hearts become hardened in places, not overnight, but one little choice, one little compromise at a time. People don’t generally walk into the office thinking “I’m going to have an affair today.” It’s usually the culmination of a lot of small but dangerous choices, little compromises that can be brushed off as harmless but end up leading somewhere that is not so harmless after all. You might say that an affair is in a completely different category than mass murder, and on the surface, yes, that’s true. But all sin causes pain, to God, to others, to ourselves. It’s all offensive to God, it all grieves God, and it’s all destructive. You might even go so far as to say that it is all equal in the eyes of God. Jesus taught that to feel hatred in your heart is equivalent to murder, that looking at someone lustfully is as though you’ve committed adultery with them. Which one of us has never done those things?
“For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”
I don’t say this to at all minimize the horrendous nature of what was done today. It was unthinkable. I also don’t minimize the role that mental illness can play in some of these kinds of situations. But I just feel that God placed on my heart the issue of sin and that big sins begin with little sins. It’s a snowball effect, a dangerous slope. That’s how it happens.
We all want these atrocious acts of violence to stop, and we feel helpless to do much about it. There are various proposed solutions out there, none of which I have any strong opinions about at this point. But I honestly believe that the only thing that’s going to make a difference is if we turn our hearts toward God, individually and as a nation. And so even though we may be people who think we could never commit such horrible acts, I think it would be a step in the right direction, the only true step in the right direction, if we would each take a step toward God today. If we would honestly examine our consciences and humbly admit where we’ve been letting sin slide in our lives, ask God for forgiveness (and he will forgive!), and instead of continuing to ask how much we can get away with and still think of ourselves as good, actually pursuing goodness with all we have. Pursuing Jesus.
I think that would be a beautiful way to honor those who have lost their lives today.
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
-Hebrews 4:7, Psalm 95:7-8
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”