A lot of what we have seen or heard in the news has been nothing short of appalling. It seems as if we can’t go a week without yet another story of a mass shooting in our country. Every story tells a similar tale: many people shot and killed in cold blood and countless others injured. Senseless mutilation is the result, and we agree on this as a society.
In the aftermath of each shooting, many people come to the nearest microphones and cameras to express their outrage over the most recent act of violence — even blaming whomever they believe is responsible for the carnage.
Many have been quick to blame politicians. Others have called out various special interest groups, as well as retailers that sell guns and ammunition. Some have blamed existing gun laws, with some even calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Still, others have cited mental illness as the reason why these killers have wreaked havoc.
Regardless of the opinions expressed and blame placed, there’s something missing from the “national discussion” or “national conversation” on these issues. The proverbial elephant in the room is constantly and consistently ignored. Most of everything addressed at the national level and in the media has been, at best, superficial. It’s been the tip of the iceberg, applying a bandage where a tourniquet is needed. What is missing from the conversation is the recognition that evil exists.
Yes, evil is real. Evil is all around us, and it is in us. We don’t like to admit this about ourselves, but deep down, we are all inherently evil. The Preacher says in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” Ecclesiastes 9:3
Again, he says: “Moreover I saw under the sun: in the place of judgment, wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, iniquity was there.” Ecclesiastes 3:16 And again, he says: “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Iniquity is another word for sin. Sin is the root of who we are. We cannot escape this fact, for we have all been conceived and born in sin. We are no different than King David, who wrote: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5 It matters not if your parents were married when you were conceived and then born; you have inherited your parents’ sin, and they inherited their parents’ sin, an inheritance that can be traced all the way back to Adam and Eve, our first parents.
Sin is our disobeying God. Adam and Eve sinned when they disobeyed Him and listened instead to the devil’s lies. We sin when we disobey Him in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and what we have left undone, not loving Him with our whole heart and not loving our neighbors as ourselves.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve brought sin into the world. Their son Cain inherited their sin and committed the first murder recorded in the Bible by killing his brother. Just as his parents refused to own up to their own sin, Cain refused to accept responsibility for his sin of murder. We are just as guilty. While we don’t physically commit murder, we are guilty when we hate someone. The blessed Apostle and Evangelist St. John reminds us: “He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:14b-15
There is no denying the fact that those killers we’ve heard of on the news are sinners. There is also no denying that we too are sinners. They are sinners. You’re a sinner. I’m a sinner. It’s not a matter of simply making bad decisions. It’s not about our not thinking enough positive thoughts. It’s about our sinning against God and deserving eternal condemnation for our sins, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. For our many and great sins, we need to repent, as individuals, as a community, society, and nation. We must own up to our sins and confess them before God our Father.
A great place for us to begin is by praying the Psalms — specifically, the “penitential” psalms, such as Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143, where we join with the Psalmist in confessing our sins, confident that God hears our pleas for mercy and forgives us for the sake of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross won our forgiveness. Go to your pastor or priest, and confess your sins before him, that he would declare to you God’s total, complete forgiveness for Jesus’ sake.
As a people, we need to repent of our sins. As Christians, we get to set the example, transcend the culture, live as God’s forgiven children, and pray for our country to live as His people.
Mark Schlamann is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Tooele.