A Christian take on the Cleveland shootings

Today on Easter Sunday I spent the day rejoicing. I spent the day in celebration of my sin and shame being nailed to a cross so that I didn’t have to bear the weight of my own imperfections anymore. I spent the day with my loved ones celebrating the greatness and grace of the Lord, all while putting a lot of thought into what this means for us as believers. We have gone from death to life through Jesus, and although I spent today celebrating Christ’s victory over death, my heart is deeply troubled.

I cannot begin to fathom what the families of Robert Goodwin and of the other victims of the Cleveland shootings today are going through. My mind can’t begin to process the trail of logic going on in the shooter’s head that he would shamelessly go around shooting people he didn’t know in the name of someone who hurt him. I have never lost a loved one like that, and I really hope I never do. I watched the Facebook live video of the shooter approaching the man he shot, I’ve seen photos of the victim with his family and friends on Twitter, and I have also seen a video of the shooter explaining why he did what he did. Most crimes like these go without an explanation, and although there certainly is no validation for an act like this, I am glad I heard what he had to say.

In the paragraph that follows, I am going to quote word for word what the shooter said on the livestream before his attacks.

“I am about to kill some people, and I do not care. I know something about me, but it don’t matter. People will come to me with their problems and I deal with people’s problems every single day, but when it comes to my problems, nobody gives a f***. I am always the bad guy. It don’t matter what the f*** I do, everyone takes it out on me. You know, this is f***ed up, man, there are some people about to die today. Hopefully, I am going to try to kill as many people as I can, but I just don’t give a f*** no more. I’m beaten, I’m tired, I don’t know. I will say this though, the people that I am going to kill today on Easter Sunday, it’s not my first.”

That is scary. Listening to that video and copying it down for this post made me cringe out of fear and pure sadness. Before I write any more, I want to say that not everything was right in this guy’s head for him to go out and shoot people out of feeling uncared for. Not only that, but he had murdered before. This man was not in his right mind in any way, shape, or form, clearly, and I am sure you all know that. It sickens me to know this kind of brokenness happens in the world. This man should have gotten professional help a long time ago. But from a spiritual perspective, here are my thoughts:

I am currently reading a book written by C.S. Lewis titled Screwtape Letters. It is about how Satan works and how the devil, being all evil and manipulative, works in the dark inside of our heads to make this world a more and more broken place. We all fall as victims to Satan’s schemes. Those thoughts that come from “nowhere” telling you that you do not measure up, that you are disappointing others, that you have no purpose, that you have no talents, that you are incapable of succeeding, that you aren’t wanted wherever you go, that your presence doesn’t make a difference in a room full of people, that your voice doesn’t matter, that you are not loved, whatever negative and emotionally destructive thing you are believing, isn’t actually from “nowhere” and it isn’t from you. That isn’t you “overthinking everything”, and that isn’t you being dramatic. That is Satan feeding you lies about who you are to empty out your soul to nothing. People are so quick to acknowledge their blessings from the Lord, because He works in the light and He wants you to know Him, and that is such a gift that through that we can feel God so evidently in our lives when good things happen. But, people don’t realize Satan’s manipulations in their lives as easily because the Devil doesn’t want you to know him, he wants to think every one of those lies listed above is you.

That is what this book talks about. Satan says to his demons “wait for people to be in the midst of tragedy and hardship where they are most vulnerable, and attack them.” We are all victims to Satan’s lies because we are human. When I say “we”, I include the Cleveland shooter.

From what he said in the livestream, he was experiencing pain. Maybe he wasn’t being loved well by people he thought he was loving. That is not at all a valid reason to go kill someone, and again, that is not at all what I am saying. But Satan, in the midst of this man’s emotional vulnerability, took the wheel. He told him “Yeah. Nobody cares about you. You are not loved or pursued by anyone. That’s the truth, and here is what you need to do.” When those lies overtook this man in the midst of his struggle, the barrier broke between him and Satan. He killed. He lost his compassion. He attacked. He made sure everyone knew. That is the work of Satan.

Ironically, this is happening on Easter Sunday. As I said earlier, Jesus died so that we could live. He conquered death so that it holds no sting on us anymore. Through the resurrection, we have the opportunity to be redeemed, alive, set free, filled up, and in relationship with Jesus. The weight of our imperfections are nailed to the cross as long as we hand them over to Him. Because Jesus rose from the dead like no man could and therefore fulfilled ancient prophesies and became what He said He would before the crucifixion, He is the son of God, and everything He said is true. Not only that, but He gave us his Spirit, which means that the good works of Jesus will continue to be done through us and around us upon our acceptance of Him.

In Jesus’s time on Earth, he healed many, many, many people who were overtaken by demons. They were possessed by Satan. By “many”, I mean everyone possessed by demons who came to Him asking for forgiveness of their sins and for healing, was healed. There was no “slip up” in that; there never was a time where Jesus tried to overcome Satan and couldn’t. Whenever the Lord and Satan came face to face, God won. Every. Single. Time. He didn’t just heal to prove the power over Satan and sickness He has, He did it because He loves us, knows us, and feels compassion for us. He didn’t have to heal everyone that came to him for repentance, He did it because He pursues us and loves us, and always has. The only thing as cool as having a God who not only never fails to be more powerful than evil, but also loves us so much is the fact that through the resurrection, these good works can be done through us by the Holy Spirit too, through the way we love.

Love always trumps hate. Every single time. By loving others the way that Jesus loves us, the Lord is revealed and the Holy Spirit works in the world around us and shapes it into something a little closer to the perfection God intended for it. By loving others as well as you possibly can, Satan’s lies are overcome by God’s truth. The “I am alone and nobody cares” is overcome with “I am loved more than I can fathom by God and those around me” just by letting the Holy Spirit work in you so that you can love as Jesus loves.

The devil and the lies he feeds us are so destructive without the Lord. Without constant reminders of the Truth of the Lord, Satan tempts people in pain to do things like bully, beat, rape, disrespect, and kill. As we see depicted in the life of Jesus and in countless people’s stories of redemption through God, the only thing that can overpower the brokenness we see around us every day is to love. So, while we are all feeling angry, confused, saddened, and scared over the shootings in Cleveland today, let’s take this as a reminder to love those around you even when it isn’t easy, because as we know, love trumps evil any day.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:8

“We love because He first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

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