I’m a big fan of the Broadway musical Wicked. The big question the story muses over is whether someone is born wicked or has wickedness thrust upon them. It’s the age old question of nature or nurture. And though it gets asked in different ways, it’s the question our community is musing over right now. Here in Northeast Ohio, and the local communities of Lake and Geauga county, we have faced a tragedy. Just 72 hours ago a young man walked into his school cafeteria with a concealed handgun and unloaded 10 rounds on his peers, killing 3, hospitalizing 2 others, and injuring an entire community. Our first response is compassion and grief … we weep and pray for the great loss of precious young life and the families forever changed. We fight off fear and the paralyzing effect this could have on thousands of other students heading off to their campuses. Our hearts break for the permanence of such events and our inability to really fix anything. And the second response has been to consider this troubled young man who did the shooting. The media digs and uncovers the dysfunction of his parents, being raised by his grandparents, his isolation, violent tendencies, and on and on. The natural human conclusions pretty quickly go to ‘how could we have prevented this? If only he had a healthier home life, or we need to hug our kids more’. And as much as I am for human solutions, preventative strategies in our schools, and the building up of the family … make no mistake – Wickedness was not thrust upon him, he was born into it. And so am I … and so are you.
James 4:2 says, “You desire and do not have, so you murder …”
As a local pastor in this community I want to inject into this conversation that the same stuff that was in the shooter’s heart is in mine. It may not result in murder, but it comes from the same place. I’m wicked! I was born a sinner to the core, and it is only by the restraining grace of the Spirit of God that my murderous heart doesn’t go to the very same place. I’m certainly not arguing for justice to be averted or consequences to be avoided. The Bible clearly calls for justice, judgment, and punishment for the sinful choices we make. And this young man will indeed face them. It will help the victims, the friends, the community to know justice is served … but it won’t change us. Until every one of us can look inside our own hearts, consider our anger, impatience, harsh words, and selfish behavior as rooted in the very same “stuff” as murder, different only in degree, then we will not truly heal. Was wickedness thrust upon this young man? Perhaps. But I guarantee you that for however poor a job his mom and dad did, they didn’t teach him to kill people. I’m quite sure that grandma and grandpa didn’t give him this plan for acting out his hopelessness. He got that from much deeper “stuff” that nurture. He was born in wickedness, born a sinner, and born in need of the work of God in his life. And so we all are.
Healing comes for the human heart and the heart of a community in the new heart only God gives through the glorious work of His Son Jesus Christ. The cross is no fairytale, as much as this tragic event is no fairytale. Sin is real, and at times like this we are painfully aware of the brokenness of not just the world, but our own hearts. It is because of this that Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. He came for murderous sinners like me. He came to do what no one else could do … mercifully change me from a murderer to a worshipper of God. This isn’t a Sunday sermon … this is a real life answer to the healing that must come to our community. We need grace. And that grace that can change us all comes only through our wicked hearts being changed by the righteous heart of Jesus. After all the news stories stop, schools start back up, and we try to heal … will you please take some time to consider your own wicked heart. This is the only thing that will change our community.
For the healing of our community,