The Spiritual Side of School Shootings

Was there a spiritual motivation to the Colorado shooting? The short answer is yes. When we say things are ‘spiritually motivated,’ we are generally looking for a clear line in the sand. We want answers to why something happened, and if we can locate the motivation within an idea we understand, it can somehow make a modicum of sense. So we look for motivation. Why would someone walk into a school or anywhere for that matter, and start shooting people? We could say it’s because ‘They hated Christians.’ Maybe it was because people were unkind. Was there demonic influence? Was there mental illness we can point to? At our lowest and worst, we use moments like this to justify political positions. We look for something to add up and more often than not, it simply doesn’t. Making the jump from our feelings of rejection and victimization, as powerful as they are, to murder is a wide gap no matter what we tell ourselves.

Was this a spiritual issue? Yes. However, probably not in the way you think.

Hate is a spiritual issue.

It doesn’t matter if it is religion vs. religion, political group vs. political group, bully vs. victim, Christian vs. the Other. Hate is a spiritual issue. You have to have some deep malice in your heart to perpetrate a crime like what has happened in Colorado. It is impossible to make enough laws or implement enough protective measures to keep hate out of the human heart. It may sound as if I am throwing up my hands in despair. But I am far from that. I am arguing that as Christians, we need to deal with the real issue, the spiritual issue.

Romans 12 offers an excellent road map.

Paul calls us to be living sacrifices. This means we live our lives, not demanding our interests, but sacrificing ourselves for what Christ wants to accomplish. This means we do not conform to the world, and we do not descend into division and hatred. As we do this, we practice verses 9-21.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is not an easy path, especially in the context of increasing persecution of Christians. If we look like the world, where is the City set on the hill? If we have hatred toward anyone, how can we be the Salt of the earth?

Paul, living in a time of great spiritual evil and incredible persecution, offered these words to the Church as a way forward. Since hate is a spiritual issue, we would do well to address the real problem and overcome evil with good. It worked for Jesus; we might want to consider doing it as well.


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