49 people. There is a debate raging in our country about how we should respond to acts of senseless violence. 49 people. Some argue that we should take away guns (at least certain types), and they raise interesting points. 49 people. Some argue we should relax freedoms on guns so that someone could have stopped the violence, they also have interesting points. 49 people. Some argue that we should crack down on terrorism as we did in the wake of 9/11 and in the Japanese internment camps. 49 people. Some say this is judgement on a group of people because of their lifestyle. 49 people. Some say that this is judgement on our nation for its blatant disregard for God. 49 people. Some cynically point out that we don’t care about the countless shootings perpetuated by the Boko Haram so we have no business talking about this shooting. 49 people.
49 people lost their lives because of a senseless act of hatred and violence. 49 people in desperate need of a savior who could give them life the same way He has me. 49 people who were simply living this life. 49 people with whom you and I will never get to share the love of Christ. 49 people whose families now have to cope with the loss of their loved ones. 49 people.
The 49 people who lost their lives are no different than you or I. They had families, friends, jobs, and enjoyed life. They are not better or worse than you and I. The Bible is clear about that. It lumps murderers together with those who are disobedient to parents (Romans 1:29-30), and it states that there is NO ONE who is righteous (Romans 3:10-20). For those who would cite their sexual orientation, please remember… 49 PEOPLE. They were people, just like you and I. Apart from Jesus Christ, your lifestyle is no less reprehensible to a perfectly Holy God. This reckless hatred that was poured out on them is evil. It is not justifiable, and it is not appropriate nor right to excuse it because of religious ideology. It was an egregious evil.
As I ponder the death of 49 people I find myself returning to this text:
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
- Habakkuk 1:2-4
Our world is filled with violence and wickedness. Many of our churches remain impotent and self-indulgent, becoming consumed with various political ideologies instead of preaching and living out the Gospel. Our world is not far from the wickedness that was rampant in Habakkuk’s day. Wickedness and death reigned. The unjust ruled, and the righteous were cursed and trampled. Yet, the Lord’s answer to Habakkuk is profoundly simple: justice will come at the end. As the Lord explains to Habakkuk what is going to happen to the wicked, Habakkuk is forced to worship. He concludes his book with a recognition that God is absolutely terrifying and yet incredibly merciful.
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
- Habakkuk 3:16-19
In the wake of wickedness and evil, be like Habakkuk. Call upon the Lord to return and exact justice. Love those who are dying. And place your hope only in the Lord.
Oh Lord, come quickly and end the wickedness. Oh Lord, be merciful to us, for we are all wicked. Oh Lord, forgive, redeem, and re-create us. Oh Lord, come quickly.