By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
As I write this column, our country is still coming to grips over the mass shooting at an Alexandria baseball field. They were all part of a team practicing for a congressional charity baseball game. A lawmaker and four others were shot; the gunman died in the melee. Sadly, it’s important to designate that it was a mass shooting, defined as a single outburst of violence in which four or more people are shot. This was our country’s 196th mass shooting in 2017. Just our country. Just this year. It took place on June 14, which was the 164th day of the year. That’s right; we are averaging more than one mass shooting a day. An additional note: this wasn’t even the only mass shooting on that day. In San Francisco, a workplace shooting left four dead and two injured.
If you’re thinking I’m writing this to focus on gun violence, keep reading. While that is a topic that certainly must be discussed, it’s not the focus of this column. What I want to call our attention to is the level of anger and hate that our country is experiencing. While we can’t blame this pointblank for the Alexandria ambush, we most certainly cannot deny the atmosphere in which we live. We in Northern Virginia may get a double dose of exposure to the negativity, given where we are geographically. However, the entire country is saturated by this toxic stew. I think that we, as Christians, must be the ones to make change. We are called as followers of our Christ and it’s time. It’s past time.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. James 1:26
Those are harsh words from James but they ring as true today as when they were written. If we consider ourselves to be religious people we have no choice but to follow the teachings of Jesus, our God come to earth to teach, preach, heal and save. Jesus would often tell his disciples parables that centered on love, kindness, forgiveness and having a servant’s heart. To read his words is to be invited to change our way of thinking, living and treating others. Jesus used two types of trees in a parable that focused on the hearts of people: the good tree only produces good fruit, and the bad tree only produces bad fruit.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
In other words, if we only take in the negativity, paranoia and hate that is so prevalent in print, broadcast and social media, we will carry that same thing in our hearts and it will come forth from our mouths. We can’t help but be part of the problem and not the solution. But there is hope! If we fill our hearts and minds with the “good fruit,” then good will fill our hearts, and kindness will define our words and actions. Reading scripture, setting aside time for daily devotions and prayer, and going to church are all ways to help us achieve that vitally important “abundance of the heart,” as Jesus called it. It is indeed time. This is on us.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Amen. I’ll see you in church!