Terrible tragedies are happening all around us and the church needs to be ready to love and ready to serve, but church leaders have to be ready to provide answers from the Bible. Empathy is not enough, catchy phraseology like “hope” and “love” are not enough, and protesting is not the answer. People need to know where hope is found, and Christians need to know that love is the Gospel. Anyone looking for answers as to why terrible tragedies occur need only to look twelve inches down from their nose to understand. What this world needs now, and has always needed, is a heart transplant that only Christ, the Master Surgeon, can perform. During times like these people are more attuned with the disease humanity has, so don’t waste a single opportunity to point them to the Great Physician!
Allow me to illustrate this point using the local newspaper here in Southern California.
Go ahead and give yourself fifteen minutes at your kitchen table, a hot cup of coffee, and Monday’s LA Times and you’ll get more theological insight than most entertainment-driven American churches gave their crowds last weekend.
What theological insight am I talking about? Sin and heart issues. The kind of heart issues that lie at the root of the violence, the racial tension, and the terrorism (what a dear pastor friend of mine rightly calls “cowardism”).
On the front page of Monday’s LA Times, it reads:
‘Madness’ in Baton Rouge. The officer targeted shootings are another tragic reminder of the lives lost, and the hatred that spreads because of the human heart. East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux III is quoted saying, “This is not so much about gun control as it is about what’s in men’s hearts.” He continues with an appeal for the country to set aside it’s divisions and end the violence saying, “If we don’t do that, and this madness continues, we will surely perish as a people.”
I don’t know if Sheriff Sid J. Gautreaux III ever earned a seminary degree, but that’s the best “sermon” I’ve heard on these issues and it just about sums up what the Bible has to say about the human heart.
Jesus Himself taught that evil comes straight from the heart. In Matthew 15:18-19 Christ says, “But the things that proceed of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
The writer of Ecclesiastes wisely said, “…the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (Ecclesiastes 9:3).
Perhaps the prophet Jeremiah best summed it all up when he explained, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 9:3).
Another article in Monday’s LA times entitled, A Call to End the Violence, illustrates just how obvious the answer is for those finding themselves in the middle of racial tension. Gang members, famous rappers, and community leaders gathered in a unified effort to encourage change. One young man (who doesn’t claim to be a seminarian) nailed it.
Dom Black, a 22-year-old who was raised in the surrounding neighborhood of Westmont, has been beat up and shot at in his community and wants to see a change. “I came out here because I feel like the change starts inside,” he said.
Did you notice the common theme? The root problem isn’t gun laws, color, or government; it’s the human heart that needs the real change.
A brief look back into the 70’s – 1973 to be exact – and I will show you that we’ve not yet seen the same violence related to racial tension and police animosity that many saw then. In 1973 134 officers were killed over the course of the year. But, the church’s message must remain the same as it has historically been. Hatred is an issue of the heart, and until the heart turns to Christ and is reconciled with it’s Maker, there will be only temporary peace and superficial change.
The church needs to take a page out of the LA Times and begin offering real answers. Love is important – but only the motive behind our message. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the real message here and only He can heal the hardest of hearts.
They will come through the doors of your church looking for answers. Will you be ready to point them to Christ?