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August 6, 2012

There has been another mass shooting. This one took place in Wisconsin; the last in Colorado, just over two weeks ago. During the interim, two dead bodies were found abandoned in Michigan.

Death Toll

The headlines include only deaths considered newsworthy – not the majority of deaths by violent means occurring daily in cities across our nation. As an illustration, at least a dozen corpses have been unceremoniously discarded on the streets of inner city Detroit, over the past twelve months.

Drug dealers and addicts, prostitutes and exotic dancers, gang members, teenage boys with basketball dreams, teenage girls trying to escape abuse, elderly men and women relying on Social Security checks, single mothers working two jobs, children not yet in the third grade. Retail cashiers, teachers, students, subway token clerks, cab drivers. Fathers, mothers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons.

This is ugly arithmetic. Surely we can do better.

Salt and Light

Many factors contribute to the violence prevalent in our culture. Which, however, begs the question:  Where are the Christians in all this? We are to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world (Matt. 5: 13-14).

A.     Assimilation v. Savor

Have we lost our savor? Have we conformed to the culture to such an extent that we no longer relay the Gospel message of salvation by Jesus Christ?

That possibility should be a real concern to us. Assimilation may draw less criticism from non-believers than bible-thumping, but it is unlikely to produce many genuine converts. Recall what Jesus said of the “lukewarm” church of Laodicea, “ ‘So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth’ ” (Rev. 3: 16).

This is not intended to suggest that Christians march in lockstep, but that there are basic Christian tenets which cannot be compromised without altering the very nature of the faith. It is the reason Mormonism (which borrows heavily from traditional Christianity, in terms of language) is considered a cult, rather than another Christian denomination.

B.     Fear of Assimilation v. The Great Commission

Another real concern involves Christians who are content to have circled the wagons. They and their families believe, but greatly fear assimilation. The world seems a cold and hostile place; they have turned their backs on it, in self-defense. This approach gives up on the Great Commission (Matt. 28: 19-20), our express directive from Christ to spread the Gospel. Sadly, the fields are ripe for harvest (John 4: 35) and the laborers are few.

C.     Love – Abortion, Homosexuality, and Marriage

The third concern for Christians should be a lack of love in our discourse with non-believers. This has greatly impaired our witness.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13: 2).

The most vocal among us have focused almost exclusively on abortion, homosexuality, and marriage (relative to homosexuality). While these are significant issues, so are poverty, war, and racism, about which we hear considerably less.

And when abortion, homosexuality, and marriage are discussed, they are not addressed from a loving perspective.

One can argue that the focus on abortion and homosexuality is a courageous stand for Christian principles, and intended for the spiritual benefit of non-believers. That is certainly what the politicians and televangelists pounding their chests would have us believe. But the language and the tone betray the reality of the situation, since both are almost universally hateful.

As a result, we now have convenient straw men (and women) to blame for the downfall of Western civilization. “But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2: 11).

Ironically, the longing for love and purpose; questions about acceptance and self-worth; worries at the doubtful future of an unborn child – a child whose father will not participate in his upbringing or voluntarily contribute to his support – swirl around the topics of abortion, homosexuality, and marriage.

The Redeemer is the source of love, purpose, acceptance, and security. But we will never get that point across to the people who most need to hear it, if we do not engage in dialogue [1].

Without that, fewer lives – male or female, LGBTQ or straight, Christian or non-Christian – will be pulled back from the brink, fewer danger signals spotted in time.  And the deadly arithmetic is not inclined to change.

[1] It bears noting that there are countless Christian charities reaching out to the destitute and brokenhearted.


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