Here I am again tackling an enormous and complex topic in about 15 minutes.  I want to talk about this latest school shooting in Florida this past week, and I’m going to do it without talking about gun control (either for or against it).

I mean, really.  We’re Christians.  We have better solutions.

The Latest Story

Here is the link to the news story that I read an excerpt from:  “Death Toll is at 17…” New York Times

We’re Christians

This is going to sound obvious to the point of being ridiculous, but we’re Christians.  We should learn to think like Christians.

But for some reason in these moments, Christians don’t tend to think like Christians.  Instead they think like the world.  They think like politicians, take to social media, and start regurgitating all the old man-made diagnosis and solutions.  And it’s about as helpful as acid reflux.

Debates over mental illness and gun regulation or deregulation, completely miss the root causes of the violence we are seeing.  We use words like “mental illness’ as a junk-drawer that really just means “people that are crazy, unlike me”.

All the while we are ignoring the truth, because the truth is far more frightening than an AR-15.

What Does God Say?

Here’s a crazy idea.  What if we tried to see what God says?  Think He might know?

Eccl. 9:3 – the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

“The hearts of the children of man are full of evil…”  that’s everybody.  Not just a handful of crazy people with access to expensive rifles.

The monster that was in the killer, is also in you, and is also in me.

What Do the Killers Say?

Most of these mass murderers say before they die why they did it.  Not all of them, but most of them do.  And there is a chilling consistency to it.  What is most obvious, and this recent Miami shooting is no exception, is that this was not a fit of rage.  This was not a guy that just snapped one day, grabbed his musket and started shooting.

It’s calculated, thoughtful, intentional, reasoned, murder.

They are almost always weak, ineffectual, emasculated, young men who have full integrated themselves into an identity of victimhood.  And that broken identity makes way for a kind of wicked quest for what they consider to be righteous justice.  Sometimes they express a chilling kind of false compassion.  They are ridding the world of an infection.  They are defending themselves, and others, against what they consider to be a tyranny.  They want all people, or a specific group of people, gone.  They have lost their reason to exist.

It is simultaneously arrogant and weak.  These are not snarling, raging, dragon-monsters charging thoughtlessly into madness.  They are weak, emasculated, young, beta males.

So, demonic forces love to step through that door and provide a little inspiration, a little push of motivation, some small opportunities to act out your plans as a test to see if it feels as good as you think it will until you have the courage to plan and execute the master plan.

It is remarkably consistent from killer to killer.  And this dynamic of the human soul is all too familiar to most people.  It’s disturbing to realize that you can UNDERSTAND and maybe even RELATE TO someone that did something so horrible.

And so we say, eh.  Mental illness.  Guns.  Education.  Those are the problems.  Anything but the human heart.

Eccl. 9:3 – the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

What’s the Solution?

So what do we do about this?  When talking about solutions, I think it’s enormously tempting to be overly simplistic.  It’s another way to avoid the mirror.  I refuse to do that here.

But I know where to start.  I know that all the solutions are found in Jesus.  And Jesus always seems to start with me and my personal responsibility.  He says, “Ben, you feel like a victim.  Let me show you how to be a victim.  I was broken and rejected like you can’t fathom, but I was never a victim.”  Jesus defines for me what a man is, and what a man isn’t.  Jesus was perfectly strong and perfectly gentle.

And Jesus takes my heart, full of wickedness and madness, and transforms it to beat differently.  The wickedness is replaced with His righteousness and the madness is replaced with the mind of Christ.

And then Jesus says, “Now take the light that I’ve put in you and pass it on.”  And it’s in the passing on of the Light of Christ that the world is changed – the wickedness flees and the madness is driven out.

So, it’s too much for me try to fix “society”.  That’s an overwhelming task.  But I can work on my relationship with Jesus.  And I can become a maker of disciples by sharing the Light.  We have no idea what a powerful weapon that is in changing the world.  You have no idea how many school shootings your life can prevent.

This is God’s master plan for changing the world, so let’s get back to it and stop wasting our passions on silly things that don’t work.

T. Keller quote:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Why Can’t We Make Friends?

My wife and I regularly hear people talk about being lonely and isolated.  It’s pervasive, in and out of the Church.  It’s crazy that there are all these people sitting at home by the phone waiting for someone to call them.  WHILE THEY BROWSE FACEBOOK.

You know what it is?  No one knows how to make friends any more.  We learned this on the playground in kindergarten.  Hey… you wanna be my friend?  Ok.

Not sure why, but maybe it’s a combination of things.

Maybe it’s stranger danger.  (BTW – pedophiles look for the kid that won’t scream, fight back, or stand their ground.  They for the kid that is disengaged, unable to interact socially, and won’t talk to adults.  “Don’t talk to strangers” turns out NOT to be good advice.  Teach your kids to look adults in the eye and engage with them directly, don’t let them hide behind your ankles.  Teach them to make friends.  Studies seem to show that that will actually make them safer.)

Maybe it’s the digital age.   What if you made a rule that you don’t look at your phone when other people are around?  What if you made eye contact with people more than you did with your device?

Maybe it’s cultural.  We used to make neighborhoods with straight streets, and houses with front porches that people used most evenings because Air Conditioning and TV was for rich people.

Now the streets are curved so you only see a few houses at a time, you don’t walk much, and you don’t every see your neighbors because you are inside.  The front porch moved to the back deck, with a tall fence around it.

Maybe it’s our hearts.  Making a friend is costly.  It’s awkward and risky.  You might get rejected.  You might look foolish.  You might have your personal space invaded.  You might not have as much free time.

Known & Loved…

But remember Tim Keller’s thought:  “To be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”

This is how Jesus told us to live as His disciples.  He said, “they will know you by your love.”  What will they know about us?  They will know that we have been with Jesus.

Making friends, as it turns out, is not an optional luxury.  It’s right down at the core of why we are still breathing.

Does anyone know you?  When was the last time you made a new friend?  Maybe it’s time for you to cross the play ground and introduce yourself?  Pick up the phone.  Reach out to someone and go meet them for coffee.  Invite them over for dinner.  Say hello, ask questions.  Get to know people.

This is what truly spiritual people do.

Introduction

Today I’m thinking about marriage.  We are planning a marriage conference this weekend at the church so I have it on my mind a lot.

For those listeners that are not married, I think you’ll get something out of this too because all of it applies to relationships of all types.

With any topic that I teach on, I try really hard to distill things down to their most fundamental elements.  That’s especially important with a topic like marriage, because the marriage relationship is really complicated.  There are always multiple things going on, at different levels, all the time.  Personality, history, sexuality, finances, doctrine, leadership styles, and more come into play.

So, I am wary of over simplifying.  Remember, this is a short 15 minute podcast not a full treatise on Christian marriage.

So that being said, I think I could get married couples to learn and internalize one thing it would be this:

HEALTHY PEOPLE MAKE HEALTHY MARRIAGES

Another way of saying it is that marriage is about sanctification, not satisfaction.  I’ve heard it said, “Marriage is about holiness, not happiness.”  I don’t like that as much because it makes it sound like you have to choose between the two.  That’s a whole other podcast, but suffice it to say you do not have to choose between holiness and happiness.

WHAT I MEAN BY THIS

We all have a strong tendency to think that the answer to the problems in our marriage is the weakest link in the relationship.  And the weakest link is the other person.  We build lists in our minds of their weaknesses and failings, and with as much sanctimony as possible, we petition God to change them because their sin is making us sad.

This goes back to Adam and Eve, the first dysfunctional married couple on the planet.  (and the first couple, period)

When God confronted Adam about his sin, he blamed Eve.  He called her “this woman you gave me” like she was a defective model that needed to be sent back to the factory for some serious retooling.

When God confronted Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, hinting at the fact that God had created the snake so why is she to blame?

From the first sin, with the first couple, there was competition.  Blame shifting.  An inability to see their own culpability in the dysfunction of their relationship.

“Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t have eaten the apple.  BUT EVE KEPT NAGGING ME ABOUT IT!”

Really?  You just single-handedly brought sin and death into the world, and that’s all you’ve got?  My wife bugged me?

But I think you probably recognize this syndrome in yourself.  I know I sure do.

The Single Greatest Thing You Can Do…

The truth is that the single greatest thing that you can do for your marriage, or any other relationship, is to grow in your relationship with God.  To put it in theological terms, “to be conformed to the image of Christ.”

So, when I say “healthy people make healthy marriages” this is how I define what “healthy” is.  It’s not just about becoming emotionally healthy, or well adjusted, or self actualized.  It’s about taking on the character of Christ.  That certainly would include your emotions, but quite often when we limit our need for growth to emotional growth we still make it about the other person and not us.

Jesus was emotionally healthy.  But he also laid down His life for us.  Jesus had boundaries, but His boundaries included a lot of people.

Want to Get Closer to Your Spouse?  Get closer to God.

But, Wait, My Spouse is a SCOUNDREL

This still applies to you.  As you repent of your sin, and draw closer to Jesus, your prayers for your spouse will cease to be self-serving.  Your motivation will shift from simply getting some relief, to genuine love and concern for your spouse that THEY would draw closer to God for the sake of their own souls and the glory of God.

Your joy gets untethered from their behavior, and gets tethered to the grace of God instead.

I need to point out, however, that I am NOT saying you should take the blame for things that your spouse is doing (unless you actually do share the blame).  You can’t repent for someone else’s sin, even if you love them.  And, I hope this is obvious, this doesn’t mean that any kind of abuse is your fault.

Where to Go From Here

1- Forgive them – many times over if needed.  This is not making excuses.  Forgiveness is giving up your right to enact justice.  Instead, you give that to God while you embrace the humility of the cross.

2- Take Responsibility for your own soul – your relationship with God is between you and God.  If it isn’t good, it’s because you aren’t pursuing it.

3- Repent of only your sin – Deal with your own sin before God, confess it to one another, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you against it.  But don’t bother listing your spouses sins before God in complaint.  They aren’t your sins to confess.

No matter what state your marriage is in right now, this is your best shot and making it better.