Earlier this week during my morning prayer time I read a wonderful passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This passage is one of my favorite prayers in the Bible:
For this reason I kneel before the Father,from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV).
At the time I thought about how this passage would be a great basis for a blog post reminding people how much God loves them, but the week got away from me and the post didn’t get written. Today, following the tragedies in Portland, Oregon (so close to my home) and in Connecticut, I realize that God’s timing is perfect because this passage holds the answer so many are looking for as to how someone could do such an evil thing as shoot strangers in a mall or kindergarteners in a school, not to mention their own mother.
Throughout scripture we are told that the heart of mankind is evil. The reason we are told God flooded the earth and saved only Noah and his family is because “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5 (NIV). Of one of the kings of Israel it is said, “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 12:14 (NIV). As Jesus explained to His disciples, “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'” Mark 7:22-23 (NIV).
But the heart that grasps the love of Christ is filled with the fullness of God. In such a heart evil thoughts are driven out by love and compassion. In this world we live in, and especially in the United States, people think they can live without God. Many don’t teach their children that God loves them, perhaps because they don’t know this wonderful truth themselves, and then we are surprised when children grow up to be murderers.
The problem that leads to such tragedies as we have seen this week is not that people have guns, it is that they do not have Christ. I realize that there are plenty of people who do not believe in or know God who do not go out and murder others, but I also know that those who commit such unspeakable acts cannot possibly know God’s love for them.
The love of Christ is kind of like a vaccine. We give vaccines to all our kids to prevent them from getting terrible diseases, even though not every kid would get the disease if the vaccine was not given. We need to vaccinate all our children against the evil that has the potential to take over their hearts, and that vaccine is the heart knowledge of the love of God that surpasses human knowledge.
As Christians, we need to pray not only for those who have suffered a great tragedy, but we need to pray every day—as Paul did for the Ephesians—for our children to have the power “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”