I’ve read more articles than I can count doing hand-wringing over the senseless shooting in South Carolina this week. Most all of them fall into one of these categories:

1. a) We shouldn’t accept this

b) This is how it always is. What can you do?

2. a) Call it terrorism! Punish him

b) He had mental problems. How could we have helped him?

3. a) Racism is everywhere!

b) Racism is dead—this was a one-off encounter

In each of these three categories, there is a point and counterpoint along the lines of my a & b examples, but they all seem to ask the question, “what can we make of this?”

Generally speaking, every article offers an answer that will do absolutely nothing to solve the problems we have. The reason every single thing I’ve read that offers solutions is because they are offering solutions to someone else’s problems.

The Real Issue

The problem is not that other, evil, wicked people need our help to be fixed. The problem is that we are all evil and wicked people who need to be fixed. As long as we continue to hand-wring about what’s wrong with our society without ever looking into what is wrong with ourselves, we will never see change.

In other words, get ready to read about this next month. Or next year. Or next week.

Here is the truth of my three points and counter points above:

1. a) We shouldn’t accept this

No, we shouldn’t accept this. It is very bad.

1. b) This is how it always is. What can you do?

This has always happened, but things can change. The real question should be “Is anyone willing to do what is necessary to see change?”

2. a) Call it terrorism! Punish him

This was definitely terrorism. It is what he intended to do. He should be punished for his evil. Boy, I wonder if I’m capable of evil like him? What kinds of evils do I have lurking in my own heart and mind that I might not even be aware of?

2. b) He had mental problems. How could we have helped him?

He seems to have had mental problems, but that doesn’t change whether or not he deserves punishment. Gee, over my life I’ve dealt with mental problems (fear, depression, insecurity, etc.), I wonder if I’m capable of ever snapping?

3. a) Racism is everywhere!

True. We see examples of racism almost everyday from a media that thrives on tension and conflict. Good news media, like good books and movies require protagonists and antagonists. What better way to stir up tension than to keep replaying a national tension enshrined in our Constitution. But that doesn’t mean that the hatred that breeds into racism isn’t alive and well in each one of us.

I’ve travelled all over the world, and I’ve yet to meet a people group who aren’t racist in some form or fashion. It isn’t because they were necessarily taught to be hateful, but because people are inherently hateful unless they are intentionally otherwise. It’s what makes for good Reality TV and what makes for bad people.

3. b) Racism is dead—this was a one-off encounter

Many of the societal and legal problems of racism in America have been effectively dealt with. So yes, in that way, racism is dead. As long as hate exists in peoples’ hearts and minds, racism will never truly be dead, though.

The Solution

As long as someone else has a problem, there isn’t much that we can do to fix it. We cannot force others to do right, we can only really punish them for doing wrong and hopefully make the punishment strong enough to deter others from doing it through fear.

When we look at these occasions and say, “What a terrible person,” we will ensure that nothing will ever change. When we look at these situations and ask, “In what ways am I capable of the same things?”, only then will we begin to see clearly enough to change.

It is when we see our own faces in that swampy, hatred-filled photo that we will begin to become desperate enough to ask the right questions.

And the right question is, “What must I do to be saved from my own sin?”

In Acts chapter 2, Peter addressed this very question over what was indeed a national tragedy that had happened 50 days earlier. It was only when 3,000 people asked themselves this question, instead of pawning off the blame on their leaders or others, did things begin to change.

It changed in their lives, it changed in the lives of the next generation, and that question has changed the lives of billions of people for over 1,900 years now.

And it is the only question that will begin to solve our problems today.

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