Disturbing headlines like these are enough to trouble us all:
“Mother to go on trial for poisoning her children,
Ruins of collapsed dance hall yields 43 bodies,
Kills wife, child in sleep and then ends own life”
No wonder anger and anxiety are epidemic. News like this feeds our fears and frustrations, making violence and despair predictable. But wait!
These are not today’s headlines. They are taken from the July 7, 1925 issue of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Herald. So even the “good old days” weren’t so good.
Long ago, Solomon urged his readers to avoid saying, “Why were the former days better than these?” (Ecclesiastes 7:10), reminding them that there is nothing new under the sun.
Today experts argue over the causes of violence, crime and moral decline, but until we get beyond outward influences we’ll not understand what’s really wrong in society. We may gather and computerize all the facts on these problems but will fail to come up with meaningful solutions unless we get back to basics.
In a letter to a young pastor, Paul predicted the future would be characterized by increasing education but said these learned ones would keep missing the central truth needed to make a difference (2 Timothy 3:7). Have you noticed how true this is in our time? We know more about mental health but have more breakdowns; more about law enforcement and the criminal mind but have more crime. Books, retreats and clinics on marriage abound, but home breakups are epidemic.
We must dig deeper. We must get past these frustrating facts to faith.
Jesus said the heart of the matter is the heart: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride and foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-22).
We are all capable of doing terrible things. Within each of us is the potential for crime, violence, dishonesty, immorality, etc. Newspaper headlines and shocking lead stories on television news roundups are but evidences of what lies within us.
We’re talking about (dare we say it?) sin.
Augustine wrote: “We are capable of every sin we have seen our neighbor commit unless God’s grace restrains us.”
That’s both the bad and good news.
The good news is that God’s grace meets us where we are, changes us when we respond in faith to His love, restrains us from actions that would harm others or ourselves and sets us on a course of caring productive living. This explains why periods of spiritual awakening have historically produced positive moral and social results in communities and nations that stricter laws, stiffer penalties and even well-meaning expensive social programs had failed to do.
Changed hearts change headlines.
And our Lord wants to change us all.
Let the changing begin in you and me.
Roger Campbell is an author, a broadcaster and columnist who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org