Hatred in Las Vegas: What if...?
Many of us woke up this morning to the absolutely tragic news of a mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip. Videos show the fear and horror as gunshots can be heard breaking through the noise of the crowd. So far, reports indicate a lone gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel into a crowd. The initial numbers are nothing short of devastating. Fifty-eight dead and more than five hundred injured. Fifty-eight people. Fathers. Mothers. Sons. Daughters. Brothers. Sisters. Friends. Almost sixty people who will not walk past the threshold of their homes today because their lives have been snuffed out by an act of violence. Events like these trigger our collective memory—Pulse nightclub, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and the list goes on. My heart is broken and so is the heart of this nation.
Hatred. Yes, that's what it is. Hatred. There's no other word for it. We can see it. We can feel it. We can hear it. To deny its presence or pretend it's something less is to willingly ignore the obvious. It would be like closing your eyes and insisting that the sun—bright and warm as it is—doesn't exist. To admit hatred is to admit that something is very wrong. In response, Country star Jake Owen who had gotten off the stage minutes before the shooting said: "This isn't what our America is supposed to be like." No it's not. But more, it's not what our world is supposed to be like. There's a big problem.
And, in displays of hatred like this, many well-meaning people want to find a cure for the hatred. Gun control. Less political rhetoric. Stricter laws. Statements of solidarity. Positive feelings and well-wishes. Are these cures? Well, a cure depends on knowing the source. When doctors deal with sicknesses they don't simply treat the symptoms they have to treat the source. Without knowing the source a cure for hatred can only address the symptoms. So, what is its source?
The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus taught, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of a man come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). What if that's true?
If it's true then it means we need a cure that goes more than skin deep. We need a heart cure. Politics can't change hearts. Laws can't change hearts. Psychology can't change hearts. Positive vibes and well-directed thoughts cannot change hearts. Rather, the Bible says only the gospel of Jesus Christ can—only it can address the problem of the heart. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). The gospel offers a cure for the sickness of the heart. The gospel is a message that does heart surgery and gives a heart transplant, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Today, I grieve the hatred I see and hear. Even more, I grieve the hatred that is in my own heart. But I'm also reminded why we need the Great Physician, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). So let us mourn with those who mourn, and do so for as long as it takes to bring the heartsick to the Physician and the life-giving medicine of the gospel.