VIOLENCE IN A
[Place a can of Fix-A-Flat® on a stool by the pulpit before the assembly.]
A few months after we moved to Fort Smith, Joyce and I rode the streets of the
neighborhood late one Saturday afternoon. About an hour after we came home, Joyce
noticed we had two flat tires. It was almost dark Saturday evening. And we have two
flat tires--one spare tire is not enough.
I solved the immediate problem with a can of Fix-A-Flat®. It temporarily sealed
the hole and inflated the tire. Compared to the flat tire, it looked great. It looked like I
had actually solved the problem.
But my problem only appeared to be fixed. The "fix" was very temporary.
Fix-A-Flat® is a short term solution.
- Last week was indescribably traumatic for this nation.
- The shootings that occurred on April 20th at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, put the nation in a state of
- The fact that another act of violence occurred did not shock us; we have
become quite accustomed to violence.
- Drive-by shootings are nothing new.
- Rapes are a common occurrence.
- Drug related deaths bring only the comment "what can you expect."
- Domestic violence rates only a shrug of the shoulders.
- Suicides bring a confused shake of the head.
- But there are certain safe zones in our society.
- There shall be no violence in:
- A hospital.
- A rest home.
- Facilities for the mentally challenged.
- A church.
- Or a school.
- When violence occurs in these "safe contexts," we are shocked.
- The Littleton shootings were major fuel for our great social debate: Why is
America so violent? Why do kids kill kids in our wealthy society?
- We still don't "get it."
- To those of us who lived in hard times, material prosperity was the
answer, the solution.
- To those of us who have known only prosperity, material prosperity is
boring, and empty, and depressing.
- Ask your teenager, "Is this a wonderful time to live in America?"
- Predicably, the shootings produced an urgent quest to find something or
someone to blame.
- The media is to blame because it publicizes violence.
- The forms of entertainment that glorify violence are to blame.
- It is the peer's fault for harassing and rejecting the two young men.
- It is the parents' fault; they should have known.
- It is the teachers' fault; they should have known.
- It is the fault of the police; they had earlier warnings.
- It is security's fault; it was not prepared.
- It is society's fault; we own too many guns.
- It is mental healthy's fault; our troubled children are not getting help.
- Each of those realities has merit.
- Each of them acknowledge a real problem.
- But each of them have limitations.
- And none of them address the core problem.
- Second only to the question of "Why?" was the question, "What is the solution?"
- You know our American society.
- Every problem must have a quick fix that is effective immediately.
- A problem takes two decades to reach complexity, but there must be an
effective solution that solves the problem in a few days.
- A "right now" solution must exist and provide a quick fix that is effective
- The proposed solutions rang out:
- Better security.
- Metal detectors.
- Eliminate access to guns.
- Arm the teachers.
- Regulate the violence in the video games.
- Eliminate violent content in entertainment.
- Pass laws that make parents accountable for their children's actions.
- The third question quickly followed, "Who is to blame?"
- Fingers pointed in 360 degrees.
- You know our American society; it always someone else's fault.
- We must determine who is to blame, and they will be sued.
I want to say something that only a few people have voiced to me. You may powerfully
agree with me; or you may powerfully disagree with me. I am not seeking agreement. I
am asking you to form a perspective. I am challenging you to open your eyes.
- What Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did was incredibly evil.
- Every aspect of everything they did was evil.
- Their hatred was evil.
- Their motive was evil.
- Their intent was evil.
- Their values were evil.
- Their hero was evil.
- Their deeds were evil.
- There is an incredible irony in that truth: a significant segment of our society
does not believe in the existence of evil.
- The younger the adult, the less likely he or she is to believe in the existence
- Many teenagers do not believe evil exists.
- Some teens believe that evil represents the highest form of good.
- Everything is good.
- Nothing is to be condemned.
- Does your child believe that evil exists? What is his or her definition of evil?
- Moral vacuums cannot exist, not in individuals, not in families, not in society.
- For decades our society has worked to restrict or remove the influence of
God from every possible sector of life.
- Our humanism denies the influence of God.
- Our secularism belittles the influence of God.
- Our materialism prostitutes the influence of God.
- The result: our society increasingly endorses moral values that oppose God.
- As this transition grows:
- Our society increasingly devalues human life.
- Consider abortion, domestic violence, rape, suicide, murder.
- Recently, Bill Smith [an elder in the White's Ferry Road congregation,
in West Monroe, Louisiana, who is an experienced trainer, teacher,
and authority in the development and use of the small group ministry]
observed that the legal problems for a
person who destroys an eagle's egg are far more serious than the legal
problems of a person who aborts a baby.
- As a society, we are a self-indulgent, self-centered people who regard
pleasure, gratification, fun, and indulgence as life's highest priorities.
- Only God teaches:
- The value of a soul is greater than the whole world.
- The highest calling of life is to be a servant to everyone.
- There is greater blessing in giving than receiving.
- We should pray for those who hate us and bless those who abuse us.
- We determine how we treat others by examining how we want to be treated.
- We forgive rather than hate.
- We exalt and value compassion, mercy, kindness, and tenderheartedness as
- It is no coincidence that as society distances itself from God that these
- It is no coincidence that the more significant God is in a person's life, the
greater respect the person has for people.
- If I suggested we do it Jesus' way, would you tell me, "It won't work!"
- The first century world in which Jesus lived and died was an evil, violent world.
- Peter started a boycott of goods and services throughout the Roman world.
- Paul led a grass roots movement for political reform.
- Barnabas lobbied the Roman senate for laws restricting weapons distribution.
- Timothy started an empire-wide petition for a just, equitable security system.
- That sounds so ridiculous you look at me like I am crazy.
- A world-wide movement began with lost, broken, outcasts who had no hope.
- In God, in Jesus Christ, they found an eternal reason to live and to die.
- The result: in sixty years the world experienced changes never dreamed of
because people changed one person at a time.
- Explain to Peter, Paul, James, John, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Apollos,
Stephen, Mary, Martha, Priscilla, Dorcas, Lydia, and Euodia why it won't work.
- Then explain to Jesus why it won't work.
- Then explain to me how what we have done the last four decades will work.
- "David, you are against laws, and reforms, and grassroots movements, and
boycotts, and all such things, aren't you?"
- No, I am not.
- They each have value.
- They each can be a helpful tool.
- But every one of those solutions fail when they seduce us to put our faith in
ourselves instead of our God.
- WE are not the solution; WE are incapable of creating the solution.
- The living, active, powerful God is the solution.
- Faith in God is the solution.
- Dependence on God is the solution.
- Allowing God to change our hearts is the solution.
- The values of Jesus Christ are the solution.
- Repentance is the solution.
- The core reason that the shootings in Littleton happened is the absence of God
in lives that were controlled by evil.
Prayer: God, help us stop placing our faith in ourselves. Teach us how to repent.
Humble us before You.
Galatians 6:7,8 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this
he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap
corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
(The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
It is harvest time. We are harvesting what we have sown and cultivated for
decades. The crop is ripe. It is long past time that we begin planting a different crop.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 May 1999
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