Now that the scourge and relative end of the COVID pandemic may be in sight, mass shootings are back in the headlines after a relatively ‘off year’ in the volume of such tragic events.
Within the span of one week, a troubled, 21-year-old, male church member, shot and killed eight people – six of whom were women of Asian descent at three different massage spas or parlors in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area, followed by a gunman’s execution of ten citizens in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.
As expected, the mainstream media and government officials at both the state and federal levels immediately jumped to conclusions as to what may have motivated these two shooting sprees without evidence, leading to proposed tighter gun restrictions and laws as the usual panacea or dare I say, “silver bullet” solution to such mass shootings.
Unsurprisingly, most of the legislation currently being considered would not have made a difference in the Colorado case for instance, as most of them involve tougher background checks. But according to local police, the Colorado shooter had purchased a semi-automatic rifle six days earlier.
Leaving the tired and soon to be resurrected gun control debate aside for a moment, Christians holding to a biblical and theological worldview may be troubled and questioned by skeptics and seekers over the issue of a professing believer of Jesus Christ having murdered more than a half-dozen people in cold-blood, as was the case in Georgia.
Is it even possible that a Christian can murder?
Little is known at this moment, as to the Georgia shooter’s mental condition or motive for the shooting, other than his confession and disclosure that he has a “sex addiction” that allegedly led him to select his targets. Apparently if he eliminated the targets that may have contributed to that addiction, this self-admitted pornographer would be rid of his demons.
Speaking of which, mental health issues and/or demonic oppression and a temptation to kill, may be linked to this murderous rampage from a biblical perspective.
Indeed, if this man’s savage act was not reason enough for church discipline or excommunication, no sin would be, as evidenced by his Baptist Church’s decision to put him out of their local fellowship, following his arrest in connection with the fatal shootings.
“These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel,” the church said in a statement.
Being that six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent (though suspicion of a ‘hate crime’ is questionable), church officials added that it does not teach that acts of violence are acceptable against “certain ethnicities or against women” or that women are responsible for men’s sexual sin against them.
The crux of my inquiry into the Georgia event is the spiritual state of the shooter. We have seen on many occasions over history that mass or serial murderers – as well as criminals and sinners of every kind have later repented and been redeemed by God’s amazing grace, available through faith in Jesus Christ.
Yes, ‘death-bed conversions’ are a thing in the Christian faith- thankfully, as no sin or individual act of man, is out of the reach of God’s mercy and saving grace. That reality is a reality to be celebrated and praised, not judged or mocked.
The only ‘unforgiveable or unpardonable sin’ taught in the Bible is not murder, but the rejection of Christ and his gospel over a lifetime, which seems to be synonymous with the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” mentioned in Mark 3:22–30 and Matthew 12:22–32.
In Mark’s account, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter”, other than one exception: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29).
In other words, to ascribe the work of the Holy Spirit of God and Christ to demons or the devil (Beelzebul), is in essence to deny the deity, person and atonement of Jesus.
How so? Although Jesus is not physically present with us at the moment in this world – until he returns, his Spirit does indwell true believers.
Thus, unrepentant rejection of the Spirit’s work of convicting the unsaved of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8), is to choose hell over heaven, or death over life, darkness over light and condemnation over salvation.
Biblical Christians know that murder – expressed by even a heart of murderous anger, is sin that condemns mankind like any other sin, unless that murderer were to repent and believe in Christ for its forgiveness.
The question remains however, can a legitimately born-again or regenerated believer of Jesus Christ following an addiction to pornography, murder eight innocent people? Would such a man after such an act be rewarded by the presence of God in heaven upon his death here, should the Lord tarry in his return?
I’ll begin to answer that question with another which somewhat parallels the act of murder and is as equally troubling to some, in man’s taking of life: is suicide an unforgiveable sin? Can a Christian take his own life before the Day of the Lord and judgment?
Anyone who repents and has come to Christ by faith for salvation is forgiven, no matter what sins he has committed (John 3:16; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:13). Although a mass-murderer or adulterer will likely still face serious consequences (legal, relational, etc.) for his evil actions – more so than someone who was “just” an angry or bitter person, that murderer’s sins- past, present and future, were completely and permanently forgiven the moment he believed in Christ, provided his faith was real.
In fact, the apostle John’s first epistle reminds us that a professing believers way of life – one’s habitual “practice” or lifestyle, rather than a moment of unrighteousness or wickedness and sin, is the better indicator of one’s spiritual status (1 John 1:6-7; 2:6, 29; 3:4-10), “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”
Disciples of Jesus must remember in the wake of this shocking event that it is not the size of the sin that is the determining factor of one’s destiny, but the size or the depth and breadth of the cross work of Christ to cover it.
To paraphrase one preacher: ‘If the shed blood of the sinless Lamb of God is enough to cover all the sins of all the millions of people who would ever believe in Him, then there can be no limit to the size or types of sins covered.
When He said, “It is finished,” sin was made an end of, full atonement and satisfaction for it were given, complete pardon was obtained, peace was made, and redemption from all sin was achieved. It was sure and certain and complete; nothing needs to be, or could be, added to it. Further, it was done entirely without the help of man, and cannot be undone.
While it seems inconceivable to the world that a true, Christian man could shoot and kill multiple people given a moment of rage, the amazing grace of God, revealed in scripture makes it possible and yes, conceivable that the assurance of salvation is for all who have truly repented and believed in Jesus, and that their sins- murder among them may be forgiven.
We do not and will not know on this side of glory, what lurks in the heart of the Georgia shooter and whether he is or will ever be a Christian, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).”
Therefore, may justice be done on earth in this case as it is in heaven, and may we who are truly in Christ, rejoice that regardless of our sins here, he awaits us with open arms there.