THE REALITY OF DALLAS . . . AND BEYOND
In the wake of the police officer assassinations in Dallas, perhaps some thoughts need to be expressed that will, most likely, not be mentioned much on cable or the network news programs. The shooting of the five Dallas police officers was no doubt horrific and a tragedy for our country. Prayers should be abundant for the families of these American heroes. Also horrifying and tragic were the deaths of the 49 individuals at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando in June and the 14 who were slain in the attack in San Bernadino.
However, statistics tell us that during the hour each of those events took place, an additional 6000 persons worldwide also perished. Some died as a result of murder, others were tragically killed in automobile or industrial accidents, some lost their lives from heart disease, cancer, or one of the many hundreds of diseases known to mankind. Still others died of old age as their bodies simply wore out. Some even died by their own hand. Over 6000 people die every hour, over 150,000 each day and in the time period between the Pulse shooting and the events in Dallas …over 3.6 million human beings died, and that number does not include those lives ended while still in the womb.
Despite the diversity of those 3 million plus individuals, they all have one thing in common: Life on earth is over and now they will spend eternity somewhere. Either in a very real heaven in the presence of Jesus Christ… or in a very real hell where there is torment and eternal separation from God.
While not minimizing anyone’s efforts, accomplishments and noble work while on earth, for those individuals, there is only one question that matters: “What was their relationship with Jesus Christ”? In other words…was there a true, heartfelt repentance of sin….a turning in genuine faith from sin and to God….and a trust in Christ alone to be both Savior and Lord, leading them to eternal life?
Dallas, Orlando, New York, Boston, Ferguson, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Charleston, Aurora, Ft Hood, Columbine. On and on it seems to go. Listening to the news, many would draw the conclusion that the cause of this violence in our nation today is rooted in terrorism, racism or economic inequality. The pundits may blame too many guns, not enough regulation, illegal immigration, poverty, the economy, weak leadership or oppression of certain racial or ethnic groups.
You may also get the impression that this is a recent dilemma. If not emerging in the past few decades, then certainly no later than with the onset of slavery just a couple centuries ago. The truth is, it is not.
I am old enough to remember, as a twelve year old in July 1966, waking up and hearing the horrific news that 7 young nurses in a dorm on the south side of Chicago, had been brutally tortured, raped and murdered. A shocking, unbelievable story that today would have dominated the news cycle 24/7 until the killer, Richard Speck, had been captured. However, back then, our information came from the newspaper and perhaps the 6 and 10pm newscasts. In the same decade our country endured the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. A century before Americans were killing each other by the thousands over the issue of slavery.
Now travel back to the first century, long before our nation existed….…. and nothing changes. There you have Nero slaughtering Christians, feeding them to lions, placing their heads on sticks and tarring their bodies, lighting them afire and using them for torches at his parties. Evil has existed from the beginning.
To find the genesis of what has taken place “recently” in our country, instead of relying on the media, we only need to go back to the book of Genesis, chapter three, when sin enters what becomes a fallen world and the first murder takes place in chapter 4 as Caine kills Abel. And just as Genesis introduces us to the fallen, sinful world, Romans 1 explains that because of man’s rejection of God, we remain to this day in that fallen world. Even worse, it tells us that God has removed His hand of restraint (although not entirely or the world would cease to exist) and turned mankind over to their depraved minds:
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32)
That condition remains today as it was 2000 years ago. As a nation, far too many think of us as “good” people who just happen to be living amongst an unjust, racially prejudiced society with no economic opportunity for the oppressed…..or one headed up by incompetent leadership. However, the authoritative Word of God provides the truth of the matter:
“There is no one who does good, not even one:” (Psalms 14:3). “The heart is more deceitful than all else. And is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
We, as a nation, have a heart problem. A sin problem. A rejection of God problem. We are living today in a Romans 1 world. In looking for a root cause to senseless killing, hatred and violence in our nation, one need look no further.
If sinful man, deceitful hearts and a rejection of God is at the heart of the problem, is there any hope for our nation? Yes. The same authoritative Word that describes our Romans 1 world also promises the cure:
…..and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Does this mean that government should do nothing, sitting back and waiting for God to act? Absolutely not. Scripture is clear that governments and their leaders have responsibilities. Simply put, the main function of government is to protect its’ citizens and to punish those who break the law. And we, as citizens, have the responsibility to obey the government. Governments are ordained of God.
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except [from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Romans 13: 1-7)
Certainly, our society can discuss mechanical, systematic change that might somewhat lessen the amount of evil from time to time. Changes in government leadership, through the legislative system and in the criminal justice system. However, for a nation’s heart that has been punctured, ruptured and torn apart by sin and a rejection of God, these methods alone are tantamount to applying bandages to facial cuts while the heart is hemorrhaging life sustaining blood.
The true blood that offers the real cure is that of Jesus Christ, shed upon the cross of Calvary, for the forgiveness of sins. As a nation, we need to repent…to submit in faith to Christ as Lord and Savior and get under that blood through obedience. Only then will God begin to “heal this land”.
As the church, the gospel is the means by which we deliver that life- saving message to a dying nation. Let the government legislators and the activists discuss what they will, for it is only the gospel that is:
“ the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16)
The church is responsible for delivering that message to a fallen world. That is the only way to truly stop the bleeding.
I do not wish to sound cold or uncaring here, but there is a very real truth that exists: whether it be Dallas or Orlando or any other tragedy discussed here, no one died, who was not going to die at some point in time. Granted, from our earthly perspective, some deaths seemed so very tragic as lives were ended at such young ages or by such cruel and unimaginable means. Yet scripture confirms that, unless the Lord returns, all of us will face the same situation:
…”And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrew 9:27)
All of us will face the same question: “where will we spend eternity?” A question thought about too little in our selfish, “give me what I think I deserve and give it to me now” world. But it is the only question that really matters.
No doubt our nation has a serious problem and the reason is because we live in a fallen world and experience the effects of sin every minute of every day. However, all created life matters to the One who created it. God desires no one to perish eternally:
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)
So as government leaders lead…and legislators legislate… and protestors protest….and commentators comment… let us not forget that while we are heartbroken over Dallas and these other tragedies, it is also our nation that has a broken heart. Broken by sin, existing in a fallen world and only truly able to be healed when it turns back to the Great Physician. May that begin today.