Learning from North Charleston and Garissa, Kenya.

I can hardly scroll through the news feed on my phone or glance at the television images on repeat. The graphic violence, the body of a man with holes in his back, the strewn carnage in room after room of a university is sickening. Most of us are just the social media audience to these stories in our diseased world. But mothers and daughters and fathers and sons are waking up to these tragedies to find that they are not spectators, they have lost a loved one.

We will pray for those families and for their future. We will make appeals to policy makers to bring change to the madness. We will have a brief moment of sorrow, and we will move on.

But wait, for one moment, please.

We can blame terrorism and mental illness, extremism and broken upbringings, false religion and broken morals, all are at fault and so much more.

But the only way to pull a trigger and end a life is to already have done so in your heart. A killer sees no value in a person, and acts on that belief. Jesus gave a sermon on this once:

Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[Aramaic for contempt in the heart] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

The seed of contempt is in every one of us. It sprouts into accusing judgments of character (‘You Fool!) when we let it grow. It develops into a sapling of dismissal and then a tree of hatred and it ultimately bears the fruit of the enemy; division and ultimately death.

Proverbs 18:21 says that the tongue (our words) holds the power of death and life. Every time a disparaging word forms in our mind or heart we are handed a loaded gun and urged by the enemy to pull the trigger.

To peel back to the very baseline of what is broken in these news stories and to stop the violence, ultimately, this world must return to seeing holy, God-given value in every human being.   That starts with us. We must be on our guard, the same disease that is in the world, rests in you and me.

One way to fight back today is to speak words that build up. Always. Only. Ever, even to the people that bother us.  And let’s not fool ourselves; not all words come out of our mouths. The more dangerous, insidious ones stay hidden in the recesses of our hearts; festering, brewing, building, until the trigger is ready.

Let’s commit today to build others up, to see their worth through the eyes of the loving God who made them. What words in our heart or on the tip of our tongues can we confess so that we are bringers of life and never ones who tear hearts apart?

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