The city of Charlotte grieves at another shooting.
This one at a high school. Two students get into a fight. One pulls out a gun. A shot is fired. One of the students is dead. A community grieves. Despair permeates hearts. A pall of gloom covers the city.
Why another senseless shooting? What is happening? Aren’t our kids supposed to be safe in the public schools?
What would Jesus say to this situation and us all?
Perhaps Jesus would remind us all that murder begins with the first angry thought. “You have heard that it was said of those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22).
Murder or manslaughter begins with the first angry thought.
Murder and manslaughter are condemned by the sixth commandment and under Old Testament law (Exodus 20:13; Numbers 35:31). These prohibitions from God are rooted in the fact that all humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Though God values all his creatures, human beings are the crown his creation. Humans hold infinite, superlative value in his eyes.
But murder has a starting point. It doesn’t just happen.
Jesus said that the spark that ignites the fuse that explodes into murder is anger. It’s dangerous and destructive effects are noted throughout Scripture (Proverbs 20:2; Galatians 5:20; James 1:20). Anger often creates a desire to damage or destroy a person---sometimes in the form of murder and/or manslaughter.
When anger is left uncontrolled, it destroys. Marriages, relationships, and cultures can be razed by anger’s fury.
We must be honest. The anger that exists in the heart of the student is in us as well. Under the right circumstances, we are capable of doing what he did. Raised in his home, in his environment, with his set of circumstances, our hearts could have responded in the same way.
What is the answer? I know of only one: the gospel of grace.
The anger in the human heart must be replaced with God’s love. Jesus’s death on the cross exposes all human sin---especially the horrors of anger and its subsequent destruction.
When a person realizes the sin of anger, and confesses it to Jesus, the old heart of anger is replaced with a new heart of love (2 Corinthians 5:17). Everything that caused the anger is given to the Lord. Past abuses and neglect are overcome. Love and forgiveness conquer hate. All life’s hurts are healed with the hope of the gospel.
I pray for the family and friends of the child who was killed. May they somehow experience God’s comfort and love during this time of grief. May the gospel of grace consume their hearts as well. May they refuse the anger that wants to retaliate. For that only exacerbates the endless cycle of anger and retaliation.
Yet, also, may justice be done. For a world without justice is a world in chaos.
I also pray for the young man who committed the crime. May he somehow know the gospel of grace. May all the anger in his heart be drained out and replaced with Jesus’s perfect, unconditional love. May he somehow be given another chance to live a life of love and service.
Finally, I pray for all of us. May we do a serious heart examination, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal and uproot any and all pockets of anger that hide within. May God show us where we’ve exploded angrily at another person. Said hurtful things. Retaliated in revenge. Deeply hurt someone created in the image of God.
Anger cannot be left unchecked. If so, at some point, it will flare up within us.Uncontrolled anger can break apart our marriages. Or devastate friendships and relationships. Or cause division throughout our nation. And we are then capable of doing what this young student did as well.
Do you not see what anger is doing to us all?
I pray that the gospel of grace, Jesus’s enormous love, will fill all hearts. His love will consume us all. Hate will evaporate. Anger will abate.
And hope will return to us all.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment..."