This quote impacted me enough to write it on a post-it and put it in my office, and even though I cannot recall in what book I read it, it often applies to my life. Right now, it seems to apply to our culture also.
We fight about topics when we don’t want to address issues, because sometimes digging deep enough to actually get to the core is uncomfortable. When you add in the 24-hour news cycle, there is a daily selection of topics to battle out over social media and on our cable news networks.
The only way we can find the core issue that promotes and provokes our anger, our frustration, and our division – on whatever topic we are arguing – is if we ask “why” and refuse cyclical thinking. It is not always a fun exercise, sometimes it is painful, and most often, it ends with the finger pointing at our own heart.
Most recently, the topic has been gun control. My heart breaks for what happened in Las Vegas. I cannot fathom the depth of pain that so many have suffered, and will continue to suffer because of this massacre. Immediately, however, there was an outcry for gun control. More laws. More regulations.
When these types of horrors happen, we find ourselves swept up in the need to do something! We feel powerless. Perhaps we bear some survivor’s guilt. We know how vulnerable we, or those we love, would be in a similar situation. So our hearts cry out, “do something!” But, what? What are we to do?
Wait, did we just skip over the issue? Could the issue be that deep down we know there is something we should be doing, but we aren’t sure what it is?
Maybe we need to ask more questions. Why do we need gun control laws? Why have people decided that killing people to advance an agenda is OK. Why would anyone think that it is OK to kill people when it is against moral, civil and biblical law? Why do people break the law? Why don’t they value either the law or human life.
The answer to all of these questions lies within a wicked heart. Do we want to change hearts or do we want to enact more laws to force obedience? Can we change hearts? Can we force anyone to obey laws?
Would more speeding laws keep you from speeding? Would more stealing laws prompt you to give back the extra change the cashier gave you, or return the pen you took from the back of the church pew, or stop surfing the net on company time?
Laws don’t make people moral; laws just show us how immoral we are. Laws don’t make people obey; they may prompt compliance, promote fear of punishment, or establish boundaries, but laws don’t change hearts. They never have, they never will.
Laws give us a standard by which we can measure behavior and mete out punishment. Jesus told us that the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on two commandments: You must love the Lord you God will all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. You must love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). We can’t even do that.
“So,” you ask, “we’re supposed to do nothing? Just sit by and watch people kill other people? Do we do away with every law because some people can’t keep them?” No. No. A thousand times no. Laws are not the problem, laws are good, and we need good laws.
Laws show us how out of alignment all of us are. We would not know what sin is if we didn’t have the law (Romans 7:7) and it is the law that condemns our wickedness. However, it is also the law that prompts us to run to the Savior for healing when we come to the point where we recognize that we are wretched and need rescued (Romans 7:24-25).
We must not sit back and do nothing, as Christians, we have much to do! But first, we must acknowledge that we cannot change hearts, and the heart is the source of behavior. Whatever the topic of the day, whether abortion, white privilege, white supremacy, black lives matter, antifa, racism, sexism, genderism, wedding cakes, rainbows, climate change, the efficiency of relief efforts, political persuasion, or gun control, we must admit that we cannot change a single person’s heart or mind by arguing about the topic. Arguing only serves to widen the divide. How many of your friendships have ended because of topics?
If we want change, true change, we must address the issue. The issue is the heart. And when anyone’s heart is changed, it is because someone spent one-on-one time sharing the truth of Jesus with them. Is that uncomfortable? Do you argue about the topics because you are afraid of the issues.
If one person who loves Jesus, and who has experienced the power and life-change of a regenerated heart, had spent a few days with this most recent shooter, might the outcome have been different? I don’t know. We’ll never know.
When we agree that the issue is a need for heart change, the finger of responsibility no longer points to congress, or to the government, or to the law; the finger of responsibility points at each one of us.
So what do we do? Jesus told us what to do when he said, “go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” We don’t need to be afraid or uncomfortable because we are not alone in this. He also promised, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
The heart is the issue. Gun control, in this instance, is the topic. You may not be able to change the world, but you can make a change in one person’s life. You may not know anyone who is capable of a mass murder, but you also don’t know that someone you know isn’t.
Who will you spend a few minutes with this week sharing the truth of Jesus? We’ve no idea the difference we could make in one life. However, we can rest assured that sharing Jesus with one person, privately, will make exponentially more difference than publicly arguing the topic of the day.
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