A Tale of Evil, Incompetence, & Heroism

Few people who go to church on Sunday expect to encounter mass murder. We think we are in a safe place. Yet sin abounds, and there is no place that is 100% safe. Last Sunday, a presumably safe place in a small Texas church turned into a scene of terror.

Details are now emerging about that killing spree. We see a combination of evil, incompetence, and, as we more recently found out, heroism.

The evil was in the heart of the perpetrator, Devin Kelley. We now know that he was a wife and child abuser, more than once. While in the Air Force, his actions of domestic abuse landed him in confinement for a year and he received a bad conduct discharge.

The incompetence focuses on the Air Force, which somehow forgot to enter his name into the National Criminal Information Center database, which would have disallowed him from purchasing guns.

Kelley was also an outspoken atheist, ranting against God and Christians on Facebook.

In a press conference yesterday, it was revealed that Kelley had a dispute with his mother-in-law who goes to that church, so the official claimed Kelley’s actions had nothing to do with religion; it was simply a domestic issue.

If that’s all this was, why try to kill everyone in the church?

No, this is deeper. This is rebellion against God and everything the Christian faith stands for. Kelley hated Christians, with his mother-in-law representing an outlet for his hatred.

The words of Jesus at the Last Supper recorded in John 15 come to mind:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. . . . If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. . . . All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

Christians have been and are persecuted and attacked worldwide. We’re only now coming to grips with what might happen in America in the future. We’ve felt “safe,” but that safe feeling may be ending.

I mentioned heroism. It turns out that a neighbor heard the gunshots, grabbed his gun, and engaged Kelley, wounding him. He then followed Kelley all the way to the place where he apparently committed suicide by ramming his vehicle and overturning it.

The man who confronted Kelley, Stephen Willeford, is a former NRA instructor. Contrary to what some might think, that means he trained people to use guns wisely and carefully. He followed his own advice. And because of that Second Amendment right, more lives probably were saved.

Willeford says he’s no hero: “I think my God … protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done.”

That kind of humility and dependence on God is actually a mark of genuine heroism, the kind God rewards.

Guns or the Evil Within?

I try to follow a policy of waiting a while before commenting on news that is not fully vetted. As we all know, much of what is said at first is speculation, and many early accounts are found to be discounted rumors as the fog dissipates.

That’s why I’ve written nothing until now on Stephen Paddock and his reign of unmitigated terror and murder in Las Vegas. What I particularly despise, as I’m sure many of you do also, is the way some people jump on a tragedy like this to score political points.

In perhaps one of the most ironic statements to emanate from a politician after this murder spree, Hillary Clinton tweeted, “We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.”

Well, I’m glad she put politics aside.

To be clear, I’m not a gun owner. I wouldn’t mind being one, but it hasn’t become a top priority for me. I went to an NRA shooting range once (did pretty well, I’m told) and was impressed with their instructions on how to handle firearms safely. That is not an organization foaming at the mouth to use guns indiscriminately; it believes in responsible gun ownership for the purpose of protection.

The old cliché about how gun control laws ensure that only criminals will be the ones with guns is accurate. Criminals don’t follow gun laws.

Erick Erickson also hit home with a comment about statistics, noting, “Many of the gun violence statistics count legitimate self defense, hunting accidents, domestic accidents, and police shoots as mass gun violence. Remember that today as the press talks about ‘mass shootings.’ They have skewed the statistics to make it look far worse than it is. This is done to perpetuate an agenda.”

Some use the term “violence” with abandon. If I were to push someone into the path of an oncoming vehicle, that is a violent action. If, however, I were to do the very same thing and push someone out of the way of that vehicle, my outward action would be the same. Would that be “violence”? Of course not.

Using a gun to protect other people is the opposite of setting oneself up in a hotel room and spraying a crowd with bullets.

Why do we have to keep explaining that which ought to be common sense?

Yet politicians will always do what politicians do. It’s so predictable.

Gun control laws don’t work and they never will. Take a trip to Chicago next week and you will be in a city that registers more gun deaths during your time there than Stephen Paddock was able to achieve in his maniacal burst.

Overall, guns save more innocent lives than they take. And it’s not the guns that are the problem. As people search for the big “why” behind Paddock’s rampage, those of us who take Scripture seriously already know the basic reason, whatever other considerations one might add in. Jesus noted it quite clearly in the 15th chapter of the gospel of Matthew:

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, slanders.

Spiritual heart surgery is the only real solution. Recognition of sin must come first; genuine repentance must follow; then and only then is forgiveness offered and a new life begins.

As the apostle Paul explains in his second epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 5:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!

I’m also particularly partial to this passage in the 12th chapter of Romans:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Renewing the mind is an ongoing process, and only renewed minds walk in the will of God.

The Lord uses even the wickedness of men to shine a light on His holiness. May people be drawn to Him and His goodness as they witness the evil around them. May they also understand the evil that lurks within them and receive His cleansing and His renewed mind.