Whenever a tragedy happens, we have a natural desire to search for answers.
We want to know “Why?”.
Especially when there is a tragedy that is man-caused, we want to know…we demand to know…WHY?
In the case of the Kalamazoo shootings this week, many are asking that question: Why?
There is much speculation…was there a relational issue, a financial issue, a job or health issue? Was there a mental health issue or a personal ‘vengeance’ issue? Was there a ‘political’ point to prove?
What made this man—Jason Dalton–a seemingly normal family man, who’d lived and worked in this community all his life—‘go off’?
We still don’t know. He does. God does. Maybe a few others have a clue…but most of us do not.
Therefore, we’re left with maddening questions for which we search in vain for answers.
However, there are some things we do ‘know’ about this situation…and all other kinds of ‘evil’ in this world.
We know this: This is not the way it was created to be!
The Scriptures can clue us in on ‘why’ these kinds of things happen.
God, in His goodness, established this world as a beautiful place where peace reigned.
When Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, were created, they lived in a perfect environment in real ‘communion’ with each other and with God The Creator (See Genesis 1:28-31). We learn that Adam and Eve had an unhindered relationship with God and even enjoyed their fellowship with Him in Eden (see Genesis 3:8), but that they chose to follow their own way—with the encouragement of satan, their spiritual enemy—and they sinned.
From that moment, sin entered the world, and their ‘unhindered fellowship with God’ was broken.
Adam and Eve had now corrupted their very nature, and from that moment forward, all of their offspring—including you and I—were corrupted.
We are born in sin, with a propensity to go our own way and put ourselves and our own desires before anyone or anything else—including God, and including other human beings.
As the prophet Jeremiah recalled, “The human heart is deceitful above all things, and wicked beyond cure; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). In addition to that, our spiritual enemy—satan—is still active and is seeking to destroy everything good. (“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
Therefore, we can say that it is ‘natural’ in a sense, that we are selfish, self-centered and in many ways, evil.
This should not really surprise us.
Now, I do not know Jason Dalton. I do not know what ‘triggered’ him, and I am not suggesting that everyone is one bad decision away from extreme violence like this.
However, we all have that tendency toward ‘self’ within…and the more we give in to that, the more likely we are to justify and rationalize rudeness, selfishness, and evil.
As the Scriptures say, we are all–each and every one of us–sinners. “All have sinned, all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23)
So, in a very real sense, the tendency we each have toward ‘self’ is evil…and unless something controls that, and ultimately changes that…we have a tendency toward ever-increasing expressions of it. As Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.” (Matthew 6:45)
That is part of the reason we seem to be seeing more frequent, more deadly, more violent and extreme expressions of evil in this world–including right here in Kalamazoo.
For many of us, our desire to make our culture a good place and to see goodness triumph helps us to overcome our selfishness–at least in the ‘extreme’ cases. In an increasing number of cases, however, this is not enough. Our society–and the individuals within it–seem to be increasingly bent on self-focused expression of my wants, even if it means taking advantage of others, hurting others’ feelings, and even violence toward others.
We need a change…a deep, internal and abiding change.
I believe that change is found in Jesus Christ, and His ability to change our hearts and minds as we open ourselves up to Him by faith and obedience. That’s the Good News–the Gospel–of Jesus Christ!
We all have sin and selfishness within. We are corrupted in our very nature by it…but Jesus came to pay for our sin, and to give us New Life–spiritually whole LIFE! “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they might have Life–to the FULL!” (John 10:10)
As we move forward from the events of this weekend, my hope and prayer is that Kalamazoo…and everywhere…would open up to the love, grace, forgiveness of God–as found in Jesus, and that we would allow Him to change us within.
As we do that, one person and one heart at a time, I am confident that this kind of evil can be lessened in this world.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about ‘What we can DO’ in the here-and-now to change things.
In the meantime, my hope is that we’d all have the courage to pray, as King David did, “Search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my mind. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me to everlasting life!’ (Psalm 139:23-24)