The shooting in Sutherland Springs has once again ignited the debate over how to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. There are those who want tighter gun control or even confiscation of all firearms. There are those who blame a shortage of mental health facilities. Others are pointing the finger to failed communications between the military and law enforcement or to the negative impact of our president. Ultimately, you cannot legislate morality or pass enough laws to prevent someone bent on destruction from taking lives. It can be done with guns, rental trucks, explosives, poisons, biological weapons, knives, arson, and agricultural supplies.


The apostle Paul was familiar with the violence of men. In his day there had been any number of mini-revolutions quelled without mercy by the unflinching sword of Rome. There were political terrorists who murdered dignitaries in the shadows. There was the brutality of dictatorships that beat, murdered, and imprisoned men for no just cause. There was bigotry, discrimination, and slavery on a scale that dwarfed the American expression of that injustice in the early years of the republic. Paul had seen the roads of Rome lined with the victims of crucifixion and impalement on stakes and had seen corruption raised to an art form by government officials.


In the midst of that, he did not cry out for more laws, more medications, more government intervention, or more mental health hospitals. Ultimately, he pointed to another realm that had to be dealt with before the violence and brutality of planet earth could be diminished. He declared, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph.6:12).


His point here and in other scriptures is that the horror we see in this world is a symptom of a deeper cause. The cause is sin and brokenness enflamed and animated by the demonic realm and the fallen nature of man. Ultimately, three things have to happen to prevent tragedies like Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. The gospel must be shared with millions not hundreds, broken hearts must be healed, and those in bondage to sin, mental illness, bitterness, addictions, and demonic spirits must be set free.


Only Jesus can do that and he will do it only though his church. I’m not naïve enough to believe that every person on earth can be saved and healed and that all violence will be eliminated this side of the return of Jesus. I know that will not happen because scripture tells us that not all men will be saved. On the other hand, the prophets do speak of a day when nations will stream to the church for wisdom and answers to the world’s most perplexing problems. I also know that the kingdom of God is meant to expand across the globe and as that kingdom is planted in the hearts of individuals they will change, which in turn will change families, which in turn will change communities, which in turn will change nations. We have been given an assignment to make disciples of all nations (not just a few people in each nation) , therefore, it can be done.


As we grieve over these tragedies that are becoming common place and as the world looks for answers, the church needs to find a voice and creative, empowered ways to touch, love, heal, and change the very individuals who might otherwise take a gun to church or a concert. We should know better than to look to government for answers. We should know better than to attempt to fight evil with the weapons of the world. We should begin to look to Christ for individual, community, national, and global answers for war, poverty, mental illness and violence.


When the church looks to the world for solutions rather than the world looking to the church, then we have failed to recognize who we are, whose we are, and the power and brilliance that resides in each of us through the Holy Spirit. I’m not yet sure what those solutions are, but I am sure that our God knows exactly how to establish large patches of heaven on earth that will grow and influence more and more territory like leaven in a lump of bread.


Not only does he know what to do, but he has already commanded us to do it and the resources for the mission are already stored in heaven waiting to be used. Let’s think bigger and more strategically. Huge corporations that influence the globe like Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook didn’t become richer than most nations by force or legislation, but by identifying the needs and desires of the world and offering solutions. How much more should the people of God be doing so? It’s time to expand our vision of the church, to leave our buildings, and to take our place in the world as the appointed dispensers of the grace and glory of God and his solutions to the world’s most overwhelming problems.

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