As of this writing, there have been 146 mass shootings in the United States this year. The latest shooting as I write, which occurred in Louisville, Kentucky, left four dead and eight injured. In almost every case, the shooter either is killed or takes his own life. What are we to say about this phenomenon that seems to have become the norm in our culture and society?
It is amazing how we can become inured to death when it happens so frequently. Every day, we are confronted with another mass shooting or, here in metro Atlanta, another homicide. Pope John Paul II named this the “culture of death” in his March 1995 encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.” He wrote: “This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and, in many cases, takes the form of a veritable ‘culture of death.’” He hit the nail on the proverbial head with this statement; we deny the unity of humanity by our attitudes and, most assuredly, by our actions. What are we to do or say about this as followers of Jesus?
First, it is critical for us to admit that we, as humans, have a propensity toward wanting everything our own way, even if it is at the expense of others. This is a definition of sin. St. John put it this way: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8). What this means is we are in bondage to sin, and we cannot free ourselves from this bondage. What, then, are we to do?
There is only one thing that can be done about this plight in which we find ourselves, and that is to be faithful to our calling as children of God. In our baptism, we are called to speak the truth to the lies of the world. We are called to do justice and walk in the way of peace. In short, we are called to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Living out this calling is not an easy venture. Treating others as we would have them treat us is not our nature, so we depend on God’s Spirit to inspire and guide us. Speaking the truth of God’s love in Jesus is our calling because Jesus is our only hope! Lord, have mercy!
– The Rev. Randy Jones is the pastor of First United Lutheran Church in Kennesaw. He has served there for five years.