I could have been there.
I like country music. If I had been in Vegas Sunday night, I might have bought a ticket and gone to the show in the shadow of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. I could have listened to the music, swayed a little, and lived in a moment of joy.
I also could have been a target. Stephen Paddock fired from his perch on the 32nd floor, killing 59 people and wounding over 500 more. Authorities are still trying to figure out his motives, if insanity can have rational motive.
Shootings like this happen with alarming frequency. Listening to news coverage, the question I heard most often was, “How do we stop this kind of thing from happening?” Sherriff Joseph Lombardo replied with an answer we don’t want to hear: “Nothing.”
We live in world where evil seizes the soul and then seeks to destroy. The destruction is sometimes towards self. Sometimes it is toward others. You see evil reaching out of a soul to destroy a career, a family, a marriage, a life. Evil’s tools are addiction, fear, jealousy, neglect, denial, anger, and craving.
The evil that controlled Stephen Paddock can control you; it can control me. Yet, we want to deny the reality of evil.
We’d like to make the world safe. We’d like to have enough laws to stop this sort of thing. Technology has given us the illusion we can build a world where nothing can threaten us. We’re happy in that delusion until the next shooter opens fire.
Even if we acknowledge the world is dangerous, we try to convince ourselves we can respond. I have no way of knowing this, but since it was a country music concert, I figure someone had a concealed weapon – legal or not. There were police and security forces right there. But a .38 pistol is no match for scoped rifle firing on automatic 400 yards away. No matter how big your gun is, someone, somewhere, has a bigger gun.
Jesus told us things like this would happen. This text is seldom taught or preached on, but it rings true: “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:1-5).”
We don’t like Jesus telling us the harsh truth. Pilate was evil and didn’t care if he had to kill some people to stay in power. Some unknown government official never took responsibility for tower maintenance in Siloam and eighteen people died (neglect is a form of evil, too).
Jesus’s message? “Repent, or you will perish.” I think Jesus was saying to us that it’s a dangerous world. The only way for evil not to overtake you is for you to turn around and do life God’s way. When you do life God’s way, evil does not control you inside or out. You are not the person controlled by evil; when evil is done to you, even if you die , you know God has the last word on your life. You can die in hope.
What happened in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. It can happen wherever people are. It’s an evil world. When you are with God, however, evil does not win over you. Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.