Growing Kingdom People – I Don’t Have to Know “Why?”
I need grace.
You might have to overlook some of my initial notions to reach the heart of my message.
I recognize it is important for investigators to pursue the question “why?” as it relates to the recent tragedy in Las Vegas. They need to rule out any collaboration with terrorist organizations or deranged associates. It is important to know how the shooter managed to stockpile his arsenal, and how he was able to transport so much firepower to a hotel suite. Text and email messages and random conversations with loved ones and neighbors should all be examined and the topics of gun control and mental health also deserve our attention. I understand these are emotional issues, but we can’t ignore them, even if our convictions remain unchanged.
It is possible we will discover some pertinent answers to the question “why?’ and find ways to reduce the possibility something this horrible will happen again. If nothing more, we may find better ways to respond if it does.
But honestly, I don’t have to know “Why?”
I appeal to my favorite quote from my father, E. Ray Jones, who used to say, “When people do or say things that unchristian I don’t have to know why.” My father made this statement in a moment when he was tired of people making excuses for their bad behavior or the behavior of others. Perhaps this is because He was raised poor. His own father, who was a problem drinker, was killed on the railroad. My grandmother raised my father and his three siblings in a coal town in Eastern Kentucky.
Dad used to say people in his hometown were so dysfunctional if they didn’t have something to fight about they would make up something. One of his town leaders was so crooked when he died they had to “screw him into the ground.” The “highway to hell” was never far away, and were it not for some strong Christian influences in my father’s life, it would have become his legacy.
Maybe this is why dad didn’t have to know “why?” People can always find a reason for their behavior. But at the root, the answer is pretty simple: the human race is sinful. We frequently wander far from God, and we forget who we are and why we are here. Therefore, we are responsible for the pain we bring into other people’s lives.
Has something changed? Are we more sinful and is this why people’s actions are becoming more sinister and destructive. It is hard to determine levels of sinfulness, but I am convinced we have begun to erase the “margins.”
What do I mean by “margins?” A margin is the moment in someone’s mind when they decide they are going to put a gun down or pull the trigger. It is formed by years of cultural teaching in regards to the value of human life, our accountability to our Creator and historical perspectives on the danger of lost civility. The marginal moment is packed with values, respect for others and basic human decency. All of these things, or the lack thereof, rush through the human mind as people decide whether or not they are going to act on their sinful desires.
When the margins are reduced or removed, there is nothing left to pull us back to reality. We “snap.”
And countless others suffer.
I think the authorities should continue to answer “why?” Perhaps they will find something useful.
But the rest of us already know the answer, and we can no longer pretend we don’t. We are a sinful human race, and even those of us who wear the Lord’s name have become complacent. We are drifting away from God and the cracks are becoming obvious everywhere we look. We continue to sin, believing what we do doesn’t matter that much, and we insist on our right to relegate God’s work to second place at best in our weekly planners.
But we never see ourselves as a part of the problem because we are basically good people. We don’t understand what our nonchalant approach to our faith is doing to society’s margins.
Am I getting a little too worked up over nothing? Perhaps.
But if margins don’t matter, then why do we take drastic steps in almost every other area of our life to squeeze out the best results? Are we getting too worked up over nothing there as well?
Sure margins matter. In the moment when we make life’s most important decisions what happens in the margins always matters.
It’s up to us to decide whether or not the human condition and the place the Lord holds in our lives is still important.
If we can take or leave Him, or put him in second place when something better comes along.
And if we discover we, or people close to us have forgotten what it means to be a Christian….
…and something unexpected happens…
…I don’t have to know “why?”