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why in our advanced and enlightened age is the slaughter worsening?

On Tuesday I read Dennis Byrne’s op ed in the Chicago Tribune reflecting on our culture of violence in the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. (If you would like to read his editorial follow this link Getting a handle on our 'culture of violence' - chicagotribune.com)

In it he raised this question, “Why in our advanced and enlightened age is the slaughter worsening?” He then proceeded, not to answer this question, but only to concede, “I don’t understand”.

In response, I would like to say that although I don’t know what specifically motivated this 20 year old man to murder 20 children and 6 adults, I do know the answer to Mr. Byrne’s question that I hope will shed some light on our dark world.

In the Bible in Romans 1, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has plainly revealed himself to all humanity through creation – his divine nature and eternal power have been clearly made known to all humans (v.20). In other words, the birth of a child, a beautiful sunrise or the smile on the face of kindergartner all point to God as the Creator.

Yet Paul goes on to say that even though God has revealed himself to us in creation, we, mankind, have neither glorified him as God nor give thanks to Him (v.21). Instead we worship and serve created things rather than the Creator (v.25). As a result, “God gave them over” to the sinful desires of their hearts (vv.24, 26 and 28).

Although for some this might sound appealing at first, ultimately this only leads to bondage when we get everything we want all the time. (For instance, imagine what would happen if you gave a child peppermint ice cream every time they craved it - every meal, every day, without limits. What they most desire would become the very thing that destroys them.) This is the condition we are in.

Now to see the long term effect of this on our culture, let’s follow the progression: Humanity rejects the God of the Bible as revealed in creation; God gives mankind over to a depraved mind to do things which ought not to be done; And as a result, Romans 1 goes on say, “they (humanity) have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless heartless, ruthless (vv.28-29).”

Did you catch that? “Full of . . . murder. . . inventing ways of doing evil.”

Why is our culture becoming more violent over time? When a culture rejects God the long-term consequence is that God gives them over to the depravity of their hearts - which includes the mass murder of innocent people.

So is there any hope? The Apostle Paul goes on to write in Romans 5 that just as through one man, Adam, sin, condemnation and death came to all mankind (v.18a), so also through one act of righteousness comes justification and forgiveness which brings life to all mankind (v.18b).

What is this one act of righteousness? The perfect, sacrificial, death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. He paid the punishment we deserve so that our broken lives can be made new to the glory of God.

When we look at our world and the senseless evil, it seems hopeless. Yet when we look to Jesus Christ by faith, we find hope – hope that peace and forgiveness are possible today and that Jesus Christ is coming again to bring justice and righteousness once and for all.

This Christmas may you find hope, not in the gifts under the tree, but in the one who hung on the tree.

Merry Christmas!

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