Quoting from USA Today’s “Moment by Moment: How the Navy Yard Shooting Unfolded”:
For more than 30 agonizing minutes, Aaron Alexis stalked his human prey with a 12-gauge shotgun, eluding several attempts by law enforcement officers to gun him down, police said Tuesday.
Details emerging about the chaotic morning of violence at the Washington Navy Yard paint a picture of man with a calculated plan bent on indiscriminately killing as many people as he could.
He slayed 12 before police ended his life in a gunbattle.1
I suspect everyone sitting here who pays attention to the news is aware of what the story I just quoted from is about. This past Monday, September 16, 2013…in a very determined way…an apparently mentally troubled man decided to kill as many people as he could at the Washington Navy Yard. In the end, 13 people, including the murderer himself, had their lives cut short.
And, as most everyone could have predicted, immediately the horrendous, inexcusable crime was used as an excuse to call for more gun control.
Don’t worry, I am not here to debate the merits, or lack thereof, of additional gun control. However, in one of her radio shows this week, Janet Mefferd said…and this is not an exact quote since I listen while in bed and not at my desk with pen and paper…
We don’t need more gun control laws. We need more pastors preaching, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Do I Really Need to…?
What do you think? Is that radio host right?
I mean, is there anyone here today who has any question that what Aaron Alexis did was wrong?
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
I am not your pastor, but if I was…do you think I need to preach “Thou shalt not kill” to everyone here just in case one of you, after we wrap things up around 11:15 with a song and a prayer…
Decides to go buy a shotgun, sneak it into some area with a lot of people, and start shooting?
Whole Counsel of God
Well, I don’t know most of you very well yet…but I feel pretty comfortable that there isn’t a single one of you that is likely to do that. However, having said that…second only to Jesus…I think that Paul is a great person to emulate. Not to mention that, inspired by the Holy Spirit he wrote to the Corinthians:
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Following that advice as a Church of Christ minister it would seem prudent of me to do as Paul did with the Ephesians. What is that? Let’s take a look together in Acts 20:26-27:
26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
So…fair enough…although I don’t think anyone here is a budding mass killer…in Antrim I didn’t shrink from preaching the “whole counsel of God”…and here I won’t either.
However, as I do this today…there is a decent chance I will “hit home” with some…perhaps many…of you. I will be putting a mirror up to our past actions and thoughts, and it’s not going to be pretty.
#1 — If you are saved, your sins are not held against you. Instead…
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
#2 — I may be, in essence, telling you that you personally are a vile sinner…but, so am I!
For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:22b-23).
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost (1 Timothy 1:15).
We are all vile sinners! But…praise God…that is not our permanent state!
Thou Shalt Not Kill
So, with that lengthy preamble…let’s first turn to a simple, succinct statement to make sure our foundational axiom is correct. Please open your Bibles to Exodus 20:13…or, if you prefer, Deuteronomy 5:17. They both say the same thing:
You shall not murder.
Hmmm…it doesn’t say, “Thou shalt not kill” in the English Standard Version.
Is it accurate? Yes…”kill” the King James Version‘s “Thou shalt not kill” does not mean that we can never kill a fellow human being. But don’t trust me…instead check out what Genesis 9:5-6 says:
5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
Now, that doesn’t mean you and I should become vigilantes and string up every murderer. Instead the 13 chapter of Romans, speaking of “governing authorities,” states:
for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:4).
And just like I’m not going to debate gun control today, I am also not going to argue for or against capital punishment. Instead, I just wanted to show that “Thou shalt not kill” actually means, as the English Standard Version translates it…”You shall not murder.”
Just think about it…if that weren’t true…then God would be a hypocrite…since He not only ordered others to kill…He killed people Himself…
Not So Simple…
Well, that’s it! Per Janet Mefferd’s advice I have stood up here and preached:
“Thou shalt not kill.”
Does everyone here agree what Aaron Alexis did last week was wrong?
Finally, please raise your right hand if you promise not to murder anyone.
Perfect! We unanimously have promised to not murder.
We are done, right?
No…it’s not that simple…
I’d be a lousy preacher if I didn’t help everyone think a bit more about the application of such a simple prohibition in the 10 commandments.
When I first started doing research for this sermon on Thursday, I visited Worldmeters2 and was greeted with the news that at that point this year 30,142,140 abortions had been performed. The gotcha with writing down that number is that it kept getting higher. It was impossible to cut and past because it was constantly increasing.
And to help put that horrifying number in perspective…how many seconds do you think there are in a year?
Well…60 seconds times 60 minutes times 24 hours times 365 days…
There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. So…even before we reached Autumn…we almost had as many abortions on this planet as there are seconds in a year. Rechecking the counter yesterday around noon we were at 30,321,400.
If you didn’t do the mental math…what I am saying is that there is more than one abortion per second on Earth.
There may be some folks sprinkled among us who will disagree with my next statement…and I do realize it needs to be tempered in cases where the life of the mother is medically pitted against the life of the unborn child…but…
Abortion is murder.
I don’t have time today to prove it to you…and, to be honest, if someone doesn’t want to believe it is, they won’t. Instead I think 2 Timothy 4:3-4 is applicable:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
We all rationalize sin at some level, don’t we? Abortion is murder, and in the United States we have embraced it wholeheartedly:
As the nation marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the National Right to Life Committee estimates that 54,559,615 abortions have been performed in the United States since the Supreme Court guaranteed a woman’s right to the procedure.
“The number means there are more than 3,300 abortions daily and 137 abortions per hour every hour in the United States,” Lifenews reports. “Translated another way, an abortion is done about every 30 seconds in the United States.”3
That’s from a January 25, 2013 Newsmax article. And, per Operation Rescue:
By age 45, one third of American women will have had at least one abortion.4
Now, pro-abortion people might argue with some of the stats…but the reality is…tens and tens and tens of millions of abortions have happened in America over the last four decades.
We are a country who treats murder of the most defenseless as a right.
Not only that, but we do it in a Romans 1:32 kind of way:
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Off the Hook?
At this point in the sermon I think everyone here agrees with me that Aaron Alexis did was wrong…and most of you agree that abortion is a form of murder.
Also, I suspect the vast majority of you have have not murdered and won’t murder.
Not like Aaron Alexis.
Not like a doctor or a patient at an abortion clinic.
So, are you off the hook?
Please bear with me as I read quickly from a few recent articles:
First from this past Wednesday:
Boy, does crime ever pay.
Sales of Rockstar Games criminal epic Grand Theft Auto V have topped $800 million worldwide during its first day of launch, says publisher Take-Two Interactive. The sales figures do not include Brazil and Japan, where the game has yet to make its debut.5
From August 26:
An 8-year-old Louisiana boy intentionally shot and killed his elderly caregiver [his grandmother] after playing a violent video game, authorities say.
“By accounts of relatives of the victim, as well as friends of the family, the victim and the juvenile had a normal, loving, relationship and even shared the same bedroom,” the sheriff’s department said.
While the motive is unclear, the sheriff’s department implied the child’s activities in a violent virtual world may have led to the killing.
“Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred.”6
Finally, from this past Tuesday:
The Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis played violent video games including Call of Duty for up to 16 hours at a time and friends believe it could have pushed him towards becoming a mass murderer.7
At this point if you don’t see the impact of those three articles together…then I suspect you aren’t paying close attention or you do not want to accept the obvious.
Having said that, does everyone who plays violent video games end up a murderer?
Well, actually maybe.
Let me ask you this instead. Does every married person who watches pornography become an adulterer?
Let’s see what Jesus said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).
As we can see, the answer to my question, “Does every married person who watches pornography become an adulterer?” is yes. Not because they race out to a bar, find a loose woman or man, and go rent a hotel room.
But because sin does not require action…instead it depends on what is going on inside you.
Getting back to my other question:
Does everyone who plays violent video games end up a murderer?
I don’t think so. However, I do think the more you play the more likely you have become a murderer.
And I would suggest that if you are using video games to consciously or unconsciously fulfill a desire to kill…or you really enjoy the act of cyber-killing (good guys or bad guys)…
You are a murderer.
By the way…and I say this as someone who prefers “shoot ’em kill ’em” films…
If you watch movies to voyeuristically fulfill a conscious or unconscious desire to kill…or you really enjoy watching fictional killing (of a good guy or a bad guy)..
You are a murderer.
What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person (Mark 7:20-23).
As for “what comes out of a person”…what comes out from you doesn’t have to be based on stabbing a knife into someone’s heart…it could be as simple as pushing a button on a Playstation 3 controller or pressing the tray in on a Blu-ray player.
Child psychologist Kristopher Kaliebe said access to a violent video game may encourage aggressive behaviour.
He said: “From a behaviour therapy perspective, I would say that’s practising.
“When you have a video game that is shooting at a human being, that is practising shooting at a human being.”8
Kaliebe was speaking in reference to the 8 year old who killed his grandmother.
I’m not huge fan of psychologists…and Scripture trumps them when it comes to guidance…
But please do not practice shooting at a human being…for real or otherwise.
Some of you may be thinking, “Phew! I haven’t murdered anybody. I haven’t supported, encouraged, paid for, performed, or had an abortion. I don’t play violent video games and never watch action-adventure movies.”
Not so fast. Let’s look at two quotes from the Bible.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22).
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:11-14).
Have you ever hated someone?
Have you ever hated someone?
It’s true that Jesus’ words in Matthew don’t specifically…like His “lust” equals “adultery”…say “anger/insult/saying you fool equals murder”…but once we have it intersect with John’s words it seems pretty clear.
If you’ve ever hated someone you are a murderer. I would also go as far as saying if you’ve every been wrongly angry with someone…especially if you were extremely angry…there is a decent chance you are a murderer.
The actual physical commission of adultery…
The actual physical commission of murder…
Are just symptoms of the festering sin in the heart. However, the sin…the responsibility…are there whether or not you carry the act out.
Ya Got Trouble
I named this sermon “Ya Got Trouble” after a song in my favorite musical, “The Music Man.” “Ya Got Trouble” includes these words:
Ya got trouble
Right here in River City
With a capital T
And that rhymes with P
And that stands for pool
We’ve surely got trouble
Right here in River City
Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock, and the Golden Rule9
I’m not going to be as creative as Meredith Willson was…connecting T with P to allow Professor Harold Hill sell the town a bunch of band equipment…
But “murder” starts with M.
And “man” and “mankind” start with M.
Of course, that is just coincidental.
But think about our history.
How many generations did it take for our ancestors to murder the first person?
The verses we read a moment ago in 1 John help answer that.
Just one. Adam and Eve’s son Cain killed their son Abel.
And how has it been since?
We joke that there the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes…but when it comes to the human race…conflict and war and murder seem just as certain, don’t they? It’s not only the voice of Abel’s blood that “is crying to [God] from the ground” (see Genesis 4:10).
Even in the “civilized world”…
Is murder uncommon? No…
And look at how many abortions we have each year.
Look at the video games we play.
Look at the movies television shows we watch.
We have trouble. Right here on Earth. Right here in the United States. Right here in Colorado. Right here in Arvada. Right here in the Arvada Church of Christ.
We have trouble. With a capital M…and it stands for murderous mankind.
But also…right here in the Arvada Church of Christ…we have the solution. It begins with a capital J.
And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:29-31).
We all have a disease. Murder is constant symptom of that disease, whether we actually physically commit it.
However, we have a doctor capable of treating our illness:
31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
Jesus is our physician. Not only is He faithful to forgive us, He will cure us. He will change us.
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).
You are a murderer. Your disease is eternally fatal. There is only one physician who can cure your disease.
If you haven’t done so…please…repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
And for those of us who are already part of the body of Christ. Don’t be hypocrites.
Not in action.
Not in thought.
Your father is not the “murderer from the beginning” (see John 8:44) Your Father is the one of which David says:
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light (Psalm 36:9).
Ya got trouble. With a capital M.
God’s got the solution. With a capital J.
1Leinwand, D., & Johnson, K. (2013, September 18). Moment by moment: How the Navy Yard shooting unfolded. USA Today. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/17/navy-yard-gunman-killed-for-more-than-30-minutes/2828585/
3Beamon, T. (2013, January 25). Report: 54,559,615 Abortions Since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Newsmax. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/54-million-abortions-roe/2013/01/22/id/472494/
4Abortions In America. (n.d.). Operation Rescue. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.operationrescue.org/about-abortion/abortions-in-america/
5Molina, B. (2013, September 18). “Grand Theft Auto V” sales top $800 million on first day. USA Today. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2013/09/18/grand-theft-auto-v-sale/2833135/
6Russell, L. (2013, August 26). Police: 8-year-old shoots, kills elderly caregiver after video game. CNN. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/25/us/louisiana-boy-kills-grandmother/index.html
7Allen, N. (2013, September 17). Aaron Alexis: Washington navy yard gunman “obsessed with violent video games.” The Telegraph. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10314585/Aaron-Alexis-Washington-navy-yard-gunman-obsessed-with-violent-video-games.html
8Wynick, A. (2013, August). Boy, 8, shoots own grandmother dead after playing Grand Theft Auto. Mirror News. Retrieved September 20, 2013, from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/boy-8-shoots-grandmother-dead-2223955
9The Music Man – Trouble… right here in River City! (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved September 21, 2013, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s60hOgqLFGg