To My Grandson: The World Is a Dangerous Place
by Dale Reeves
Pastor of Creative Content
I was getting ready to call it a night last evening when a friend of mine asked about my response to the mass shooting that took place in El Paso, Texas, earlier that morning. I texted these words to Joey, “I think we as a culture are numb to it because it happens all too frequently . . . unless it happens in our town.”
A twentysomething gunman opened fire at a crowded Walmart yesterday morning, killing 20 people and injuring 26 others by using an AK-style semiautomatic rifle. The El Paso shooting is raising tensions in a city already on edge. Since the Walmart is less than a 10-minute drive from Mexico, the Cielo Vista Mall is a regular destination for Mexican tourists who come to the city to shop and visit family. Over the next several days we will hear more about the motive for these shootings. Since El Paso has been in the news quite a bit because of what is happening at the U.S./Mexico border, we will hear numerous opinions on these matters, and many politicians will weigh in with their particular views and proposed solutions. The FBI is still investigating whether the shooter from Allen, Texas, is linked to a racist manifesto railing against immigration and whether he committed a “hate crime” specifically targeting Hispanics in the El Paso area.
Karen Peña, 19, who lives in El Paso and was crossing the bridge to visit her mother in Ciudad Juárez, saw a broader threat to the shooting. “I think it’s because of the migrants,” she said, referring to the Central American migrants who have been arriving at the southern border in record numbers. “It’s a warning to scare them off,” she said.
Just this past Tuesday a disgruntled Walmart employee (who had been suspended last weekend) fatally shot two co-workers and wounded a police officer before he was shot and arrested at a Walmart store in northern Mississippi. After the El Paso rampage yesterday Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said in an Instagram post, “I can’t believe I’m sending a note like this twice in one week. . . . my heart aches for the community and the families of the victims of today’s tragedy.”
Two shootings at two Walmarts in one week. I had just shopped at our local Walmart in Mason a few times this week, but neither time did I enter the store with this thought, This is a dangerous place to be. It might be my last visit to Walmart ever. As I said to Joey, “We are numb to it unless it happens in our town.”
And then when I woke up this morning to get ready to meet with other followers of God in our church, the first thing I heard my wife say was, “Did you hear about what happened in Dayton last night? There was another shooting and at least nine people are dead, and another 26 people are injured.” This time it was a little closer to my home, about 45 minutes away. Around 1:00 am a gunman went on a shooting rampage in a usually safe area of downtown Dayton, one filled with lots of bars and restaurants.
I knew we as a church would pray for the families dealing with the aftermath of these tragedies in El Paso and Dayton this morning. But, what else can and should we do? This year alone in our country there have been 32 mass shootings (defined as three or more killings in a single episode). I said in another blog this past week, “Our anger is out of control.” Yes, but not only the anger in our culture, but the unspeakable violence in our culture is out of control. Jesus said something about our anger and murder problem in his Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it was said to 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 brotherwill be liable to judgment; whoever insultshis brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hellof fire.So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:21-24, ESV)
Jesus said that anger is murder of the heart; and the seed of all these latest shootings comes from a heart that is filled with all kinds of evil thoughts (see Matthew 15:19). Jesus desires that we live at peace with others, and be reconciled to them before this kind of unspeakable violence becomes a part of each of our lives. In God’s original creation, the Garden of Eden was a place of perfection, a place of shalom, a place of peace. But once since entered into the world (Genesis 3), jealousy and bitterness also entered. Cain was jealous of his brother Abel, and in Genesis 4 we have recorded the first murder—because Cain cared more about himself than his brother.
My wife and I are anxiously anticipating the birth of our second grandson this week. But I am wondering today, Into what kind of world is he going to enter? Wouldn’t he just be safer staying in the protected confines of his mother’s womb?The world into which he will be born is one that is dangerous. One in which we hear of senseless violence every single day. One that is in desperate need of reconciliation. One that is divided. One that is being blinded by the “god of this age,” the one who is God’s enemy. But I’d like to think that our grandson could be part of the solution, he could be part of bringing peace and reconciliation to others . . . one person at a time.
Jesus sees our pain today. He hears our prayers as we cry out on behalf of families in El Paso and Dayton. And he reminds us that there is a better way, the way of love and peace. And, we can be part of the solution as change agents loving on those around us . . . one at a time. He says to us today, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Matthew 10:10, NIV).
Article photo from USA Today.