What do you make of the tragic shootings in Charleston? Was the killer a “sick” individual? A recent USA TODAY guest editorialist and presidential candidate, Ben S. Carson, said, “Let’s call this sickness what it is, so we can get on with the healing.” “Is this killer a sick individual? 


In my professional opinion, yes, he is. What is his sickness? It is the sickness of racism, a spiritual sickness that distorts the mind and heart and causes irrational and baseless fear and hatred in people of all colors.” I suppose that’s close. But I don’t think it’s accurate enough. It is sin. Does sin also distort the mind and heart? Yes. Does sin also cause irrational and baseless fear and hatred? Absolutely. So am I being too picky? Are the two one and the same? I don’t think so because how one diagnoses the problem leads to what remedy is proposed. To call something a sickness presupposes a cure that humans can discover or implement through medical and/or psychological means. In this case, it might look to the killer’s childhood environment for a cause. We are always happy whenever a “natural” cause or explanation can be discovered because if those same factors haven’t happened to us, we can breathe a sigh of relief. We are OK.

Sin, however, is something else. It hides behind those toxic factors which humans are so “sure” are the cause of violent actions. Sin is happy for people to think that if we just eradicate (you name your favorite culprit), we’ll all be safer and saner. And then sin happily goes about its business, surprising us all once more when the eliminated factor has not made the world a better or safer place after all.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to be done. It is to say that the much-desired transformation of heart and mind won’t come through the sciences or economics. So let us proclaim what we know to be the truth – only the Gospel has the power to transform heart and mind. But even then, positive results are neither uniform nor guaranteed. At Nuremberg, some of the Nazi war criminals laughed at the chaplain’s Gospel message, others despaired, and still others repented and believed that God had forgiven them in Christ.

What can the Gospel do in these times? It can surely lead some to repent and bring about a transformation of their hearts and minds prior to any tragedy they might otherwise commit. It can surely lead others to repent of their sins after they have committed some heinous act. In either case, those who receive the Gospel and in whom the Spirit works will have hope beyond their current situation. Christ Jesus came to save sinners for eternity. We all need that hope – whether we’ve shot off our mouths or guns at those whom we hate or fear. And when victims or their families forgive the perpetrator, that powerful act still leaves many people shaking their heads in wonderment.