The Christian church’s response to mass shootings should be a simple one: Repent.
So where is it?
The call to repentance is an essential part of the church’s responsibility. Why? Because repentance leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). And if the church isn’t helping guide people to a real salvation and therefore a real changed life and real relationship with God, it’s failing.
For a long time, my view of repentance was shaped by TV and movies: the ragged-looking, disheveled man on a street corner holding a sign warning people to repent because the end is nigh. In some ways, it was a scary and intimidating concept.
But repentance simply means “to change the mind, relent,” according to its Greek definition.
And to elaborate: “To change the mind is to let go of your old perception, your old understanding — and then choose the new insight that God is revealing to you. What the heart chooses, the mind obeys. And when God truly changes your mind, your thoughts, motives and actions will follow.” (That’s from the book “Asking for the Ancient Path” by Jeff Baron.)
People who want to kill one person or 100 need new thoughts, motives and actions that originate in God. They need repentance.
Here’s what Jesus said: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
Luke 3:3 says John the Baptist preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
After hearing Peter speak, the crowd asked him what they should do. His answer was “repent.” (Acts 2:38)
And Paul said he declared to the Gentiles “that they should repent and turn to God.” (Acts 26:20)
Call, preach, declare.
This is the Christian church’s responsibility — to call the world to turn to the living God and repent to have a changed mind and heart.
Unfortunately, the church and the world have become so entangled that the solutions offered by the church usually are worldly. It’s no different when it comes to mass shootings. Anti-gun violence programs? Efforts to become involved in the politics of gun control legislation? Wake up!
Those solutions have no power of God because they are not of God.
The roots of sin — and the desire to murder is sin — are found deep in people’s hearts, and only repentance solves that problem.
Jesus’ mindset about sin is this: “First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)
When a person’s heart is cleansed of sin, his actions will be clean.
But what the church offers as solutions only shine up the outside of a dirty cup — surface, shallow, ineffective answers that ignore the reality of sin and its role in violence.
It’s not surprising that the world offers worldly solutions. It can’t help but be what it is. But the Christian church should be the “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” who are “lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Instead, churches have become “blind guides of the blind” (Matthew 15:14) that are ill-equipped to speak the truth of God that leads the world to repentance.
The modern Christian church is a sad shadow of what began in the New Testament. A desire to please God, speak His revealed truth and effectively help bring people to real repentance and salvation is uncommon. A desire to please people by telling them what they want to hear is all too common.
So what should the church do? If you’ve been paying attention to these words, the answer is evident: Repent.