If we want to truly understand racism and mass shootings, we will think through our enemy’s strategies. The same Devil who blinds a murderous person from seeing another person’s humanity blinds people after a tragedy from seeing the real enemy.
In John 9, John gives an account of Jesus healing a blind man. His blindness was unique: he was blind from birth. Upon meeting this man, the disciples asked Jesus a question. Who sinned that this man was born blind? Jesus began to explain that his blindness was not connected to sin, but rather it was “so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Jesus made a salve of saliva and mud, and told the man to wash in the pool of Siloam. He obeyed and came back seeing. What a miracle!
What is the real blindness in the story?
One would imagine that at that moment the whole town would be celebrating this miracle of Jesus and glorifying God in the highest. But that wasn’t what followed this miraculous healing. What would happen is a huge, heated discussion among the Pharisees about how this man was healed, who healed him, and most importantly why was it done on the Sabbath day.
They began to point out that obviously the person who healed him was a sinner because he had healed on the Sabbath day. Then the discussion shifted to whether the man had really been blind at all. They sent for his parents to verify that he was their son, and that he had been blind. They then interrogated the formerly blind man, asking, “Who did this? What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
What should have been a glorious day spiraled into a community-wide fight over meaningless issues. The result: the man who was healed was actually banished from participating in the synagogue.
Here was a man that could not help his blindness, yet by faith in and obedience to the words of Jesus and by Jesus’ miraculous power, he gained sight. On the other hand, there were those who could see physically, but were blind to the joy of the miracle and to the lordship of Jesus.
Who is the real enemy in our story?
When we are blind to the ways of Jesus, we walk through life aimlessly attempting to make it from one point to the next. We fail to see the traps and snares of the enemy, yet we wonder why we often get stuck in the same issues.
The Pharisees in their blind rage began to demonize Jesus, who was in a way trying to heal them of their spiritual blindness.
So, with the Pharisees as his audience (John 10:1), Jesus began to give an allegory describing his purpose in the world. Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd, a shepherd that leads his sheep, provides for his sheep, and protects his sheep. In his message, he gives two chilling lines that would convict the devilish ways of those listening. First, he explained that anyone who attempts to enter the sheepfold any other way is a thief and a robber (John 10:1). Basically, he was saying that any teacher attempting to lead anyone spiritually without being aligned with God’s purpose is a thief. The next chilling line is this: “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).
“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.”
In this second statement, Jesus reminds us of our ultimate enemy, Satan, because this so well describes Satan’s modus operandi. Everything he does aligns with this thinking: He will do whatever he can to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our lives and relationships. He has no compassion for the sheep, no care for the shepherd. He will use lies and lust, fear and factions, hate and harm all in an effort to steal the minds of our young, kill the efforts of unity, and destroy our nation.
Stealing Minds, Killing Humans, and Destroying Communities
Many of the scars of our nation trace back to the sin of racism. Satan used the bane of racism to try to destroy our nation in its infancy. I believe that slavery, Civil War, and Jim Crow would have torn this nation apart if it were not for godly men and women fighting courageously to lead us to the cross and the way of Jesus. Even now, given the cultural drift from God, mixed with political unrest, Satan keeps pushing the race button. One of the ugliest words in our common vernacular other than racism is cancer, and truth be told, racism is a cancer to our society. It seeks to corrupt the minds of others and spread throughout our nation.
When one focuses solely on race, it distracts the mind from the mission to which God calls us—loving God, loving others, and making disciples. Racism is a cancer that only the radiant, penetrating, transformative, redemptive love of God can eradicate. However, if allowed to thrive, racism will resurge time and time again.
“Racism is a cancer that only the radiant, penetrating, transformative, redemptive love of God can eradicate.”
One mind that was recently corrupted by this evil, is the young man Payton Gendron. In his manifesto, he notes that he didn’t grow up racist. However, the enemy used the workshop of his idle mind during the lockdowns of the pandemic to sow seeds of poison in his mind. He began to travel deeper and deeper down the path of extreme racist propaganda. He came to the point that he must act. He contemplated suicide. But reasoning that his suicide wouldn’t gain mass effect, he eventually came to the evil decision of a mass shooting. He decided with clear evil intention to strategically, maliciously commit a mass shooting in a predominately African American community.
As a black man, this angers me. I was brought up to think that such a scenario was virtually impossible. “No one would just wake up and decide to kill black people.” But here we are, twice in the last decade where a young person was racially motivated to not just harm, but kill black people en masse.
“This invokes feelings of post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
For many in the African American community, this invokes feelings of post-traumatic stress syndrome. This is the same African American demographic in our country that suffers from high abortion rates, high poverty rates, and high crime and homicide rates. But this is the same African American community that needs the service and the wisdom of a Pearl Young.
Pearl was a 77-year-old woman that this surrogate of Satan killed. She was known in this community as a woman of faith and a woman of diligent service. She was often serving the community and feeding the hungry with the little that she had. Along with 9 others, she was killed by a remnant of the racism that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tried to eradicate in his lifetime, yet which ended up killing him as well. This hurts. And the enemy knows what he is doing.
Turning Us Against Each Other
In this moment, those who bear the blood-stained banner of Christ should be finding ways to bring Christ to this crisis. It should be a time of common unity…community. What often happens in these scenarios is unfortunately precisely what the enemy plans will happen. This scenario will devolve into a finger-pointing frenzy, a perpetual blame game that distracts from this tragic and tender moment in this shaken community. “It’s a gun problem; we need better gun laws. And how did he get that kind of equipment?” “There they go, always wanting to take our guns. We have a 2nd amendment for a reason!” “Here’s another situation where a white killer in a mass shooting is detained. Imagine if he was a black guy?” “It’s these MAGA people!” “It’s these liberal politicians and their inflammatory policies.” “Black Lives Matter!” “All Lives Matter!” “Where is your God?”
“The enemy knows that just this killing alone will exacerbate the tensions that already exist.”
The enemy knows that just this killing alone will exacerbate the tensions that already exist. He knows that people will go to work with a side eye toward their coworker. He knows that, rather than looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, people will return to the camps of their comfort, race, political party, and stereotypical biases.
In the months ahead, several will psychoanalyze the killer. Many will have their spin and take on his manifesto. There will be hundreds of hours of coverage, opinion pieces, and analysis on this hate crime. Social media will be used as the enemy’s playground to incite anger and hate on all sides.
The Heart of the Issue and the Cure to Our Blindness
If we’re not vigilant, all of these issues can blind us from the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is an issue of the heart. What condition are we in as a nation that our young people increasingly believe that violence is the answer? How is it that our ancestors, black and white, died to unite us to a better future than they had, only to see their children still fighting over black and white? In some ways it’s easy for us to see skin, while we are blind to seeing sin.
“In some ways it’s easy for us to see skin, while we are blind to seeing sin.”
Do you see? He’s stealing our aspirations for the better. He’s killing our children. He’s destroying our world.
Yet the story Jesus tells doesn’t end with the thief stealing, killing, and destroying. The Good Shepherd draws our eyes back to himself. We need a change of direction, a change of focus. We have seen the ravages of the thief in our world for too long.
“I have come…”
To the sick, lame, paralyzed, blind, hurt, and even sinful…this line is a welcome comfort to the soul. Jesus has come. As Christians, since we are the body of Christ, the hands and feet of Christ, we too must be able to demonstrate the presence of Jesus in any crisis in our society.
To the child who witnesses his parents fighting all the time, arguing because of abuse and drug use, the body of Christ has come. To the lonely teens that are facing identity crisis in their life, the body of Christ has come. To the young person being fueled by reflections of hate from the past and attempting to manifest it in the present, the body of Christ has come. To a community that has been ravaged by violence, the body of Christ has come. To the godly family trying to navigate in this modern Babylon, the body of Christ has come.
“…that they may have life and have it to the full.”
The fullness of life can only be lived in Jesus. Only Jesus can fill the void that we have in our lives. Hatred will not fill that void. Gluttony will not fill that void. Lust will not fill that void. Wealth will not fill that void. Party allegiance will not fill that void. Only Jesus.
When we place Jesus at the forefront of our minds, we will find that Jesus is the answer to our problems. Jesus and the Holy Spirit he sends are the response to comfort the families of the victims of this heinous hate crime.
“When we place Jesus at the forefront of our minds, we will find that Jesus is the answer to our problems.”
Let us continue to pray for those families and this community. Jesus is the sole unifier and healer of not just that community but all communities. Jesus is the best guide for how to be righteously angry, but not allow the anger to cause a root of bitterness and sin. Jesus, not politicians, is the one in which we can put our trust. Jesus is the only one that can direct an idle mind to do the will of the Father. The love of Jesus is the best weapon to combat the ills of hatred.
“Father God, help us as disciples of Christ walk worthy of the calling set before us. Help us be humble and gentle. Father, give us patience that we can endure suffering. In this season in our time, help us to bear with one another in love. There are so many things that we hurt from, and that we are healing from. Help us to bear with one another in love. Help us to do all we can, with all that we have, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Recognizing all that the enemy is doing to divide us, help us to remember that there is one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. One God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in all. Heal this land. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
-A prayer adapted from Eph. 4:1-7