Evil Grieves the Heart of God

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Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr

Last week brought two more incidents of “domestic terrorism” in Texas and Ohio. Most recent tallies indicate at least 32 dead and more than 50 wounded, all at the hands of two individuals with no apparent motives. Our hearts hurt each time this kind of news arrives.

As usual, pundits, politicians, and other people are quick to decry these dastardly deeds and to offer solutions that might provide a quick fix. Gun control, background checks, psychological or psychiatric help for people who flash signals of mental imbalance or leave a trail of racial hatred or indicate vengeful predisposition are the most frequently suggested remedies.

Each of those suggestions might be somewhat helpful. But none really gets to the heart of the matter. The bottom line is: It’s the heart that matters. “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Genesis 8:21 (ESV).

My father used to say that if you believe children are born without original sin, just put two toddlers in the same room, with only one toy, and shut the door.

The biblical quote above was spoken by God after he had sent the great flood, described in Gen. 6-9. It begins like this: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’” Gen. 6:5-7

The flood was caused by 40 days and 40 nights of constant, torrential rainfall. After a total of approximately 370 consecutive days on the ark, God created the rainbow as a visible sign of his covenant never again to destroy the earth by the waters of a flood. Gen. 9:8-17

Just before that covenant, “The LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. ’” Gen. 8:21

The bottom line is that nothing anyone does now or in the future will change the evil nature of man’s heart. Steps we take, guns we confiscate, laws we make, restrictions we place, speeches we hear … these and other decisions or actions might be somewhat helpful in minimizing the massive and rapid loss of life that occurs in a mass shooting. We should and must do whatever we can toward that goal.

Yet people with evil hearts will always find ways to do evil deeds. Not even the almost total destruction of mankind in the flood sent by God removed the evil from man’s heart.

So we teach our children and our children’s children that life is a precious gift of God. And we endeavor to teach others that truth as well. That won’t eradicate the evil in man’s heart. And it won’t totally stop mass shootings. But it might go a long way toward curbing the unbridled insanity that happens far too often. For evil still grieves the heart of God. And my heart as well.

The Will to Live

Credit:  Jesse Therrien

Credit: Jesse Therrien

On my birthday last year, January 29, 2013, I saved an article from USA Today. It’s been sitting on my desk under a pile of other documents since then, awaiting my attention. The title is “Have we lost the will to live?” The subtitle: “Suicide is up. Around the world, it is way up. And it explains why mass murderers do what they do.” The author is Rebecca D. Costa.

The article briefly references a number of recent attacks on innocent civilians and concludes the perpetrators had one thing in common: “Long before they reached for a weapon, they lost their desire to live. And it is this unnatural state that enabled them to commit unimaginable acts. Once a person makes a decision to die, the most abhorrent atrocities become permissible. There are no longer any consequences to fear: no arrest, no jail, no trial, no families of the victims to face, no remorse, no mothering. Dead is dead.”

Conversely, the article proposes, would-be murderers from the past were different. After aiming his gun at President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth ran. So did Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Even disturbed killers like Ted Bundy and Charles Manson went to great lengths to keep their crimes hidden. Why? “Because the drive to survive – to thrive, to propagate – is the strongest instinct among all living organisms. Self-preservation is a fundamental urge in nature. But in recent times, this instinct has gone awry.”

Supporting this premise is the observation that antidepressants are now the most prescribed drugs in the USA, climbing almost 400% in the past two decades, particularly among preschoolers and adolescents. In addition, an estimated 1 million people in the U.S. report attempting to commit suicide each year. One such attempt succeeds every 14 minutes.

Suicides have also risen around the globe, having increased 60% in the past 45 years. “We have a widespread affliction on our hands that is affecting the entire human race. An affliction we understand very little about. An affliction we continue to sweep under the rug and blame on guns, the economy and every other thing. An affliction that has become a preamble for mass murder.”

In case the reader hasn’t figured it out by now, the author makes one main point of the article crystal clear: “Today, fast-firing assault weapons grab international attention, but that is not what makes people like Adam Lanza (perpetrator of Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings) so dangerous or what gives us reason to fear more such attacks; it’s the fact that Lanza had no will to live. That’s not a problem that can be solved by gun control or arming school guards.”

“If we have any hope of curbing tragedies such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, we must not allow rhetoric or short-term mitigation overshadow the opportunity to address the real culprit behind mass violence. Thriving, happy, connected human beings don’t use guns to harm others, no matter how plentiful. They don’t fashion fertilizer or airplanes into bombs. And they don’t need the government to regulate these things. Nature has designed us so that the will to live acts as a deterrent against anything that threatens our continuation – including opening fire in a public place. Fix this, and it won’t be long before gun control is superseded by self-control. And at the end of the day, isn’t this a far more lasting alternative than surrendering hard-won liberties?”

Regardless of your (or my) personal opinion regarding gun control, the question begged has to do with the real root cause(s) of the absence of a will to live. Is it biological, psychological, physiological, societal? Is it hereditary or environmental? Is it curable or a hopelessly de facto lifetime reality for those affected? Or is it simply a demonic manifestation of the power of the devil in the lives of real people?

Whatever the answer(s) might be, Christians could add to the USA Today article this biblical explanation for the problem the author identifies: “Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) And the concluding remedy: “Resist him, firm in your faith … and the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:9-11)

That explanation is not a magic wand. Nevertheless it hopefully encourages individuals, families, churches and humanitarian or governmental organizations to do everything humanly possible to protect the sanctity and safety of the life of every human being. That becomes ever more critical given the reality of living life in the midst of individuals who no longer have the will to live.