I have postponed commenting on the tragedy in Las Vegas for two reasons: First, so many people jumped on this tragedy responding emotionally and posting emotionally charged blogs and thoughts online in order to push their own agenda in regard to political issues. Second, I wanted to check my own heart and respond reasonably and not out of emotion because this event has rocked all of us to the core in our desire to understand how such a thing could happen. Thus, my desire is not to push a political agenda within my response. While incidents such as this provoke debates about gun control and governmental legislation, most of the arguments divide people on further issues that will probably never be resolved and the last thing our nation needs is more division. My thoughts naturally gravitate toward something much deeper than any modern law. At the root of the tragedy in Vegas is not the debate over gun control, it is beyond any political debate in history.
To begin, I think that I was shaken by that incident more than I have been in a while. The reality of the statement I just made is shocking to me. It seems that every other day stories about tragedy are headlining the news and I feel that to a degree I have become callous to the evil that exists in the world. However, something about the reality of this one man killing so many people in such quick time struck me deeper than many other incidents that I have seen scrolling across headlines.
Even in this moment, I have the tendency to place Stephen Paddock (the shooter) into a category of evil that is beyond our earthly comprehension. We naturally ask the question, “how could someone do something so horrible?” On the surface, the answer does leave us baffled. We ask the same questions about some of the most “evil” people in all of history. How could Hitler extinguish so many Jews? However, the spiritual answer to the question is one of greater depth. How could someone do something so horrible? The answer is simply sin.
Stephen Paddock seemingly gave no evidence that he would carry out something so horrible as a mass murder. Sure, he may have drank a little too much and gambled more than he should, but other than that all of the reports that I have seen are nothing less than confusing because he did not give the the typical signs of someone that would do such of a thing. But, there is one thing that lies within Stephen Paddock that our news media fails to see, sin.
Stephen Paddock was born dead in his trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (ESV). Paddock was doing nothing but acting directly in accordance with his nature. Because of sin, we should not be surprised when someone carries out an act as heinous as the one that he performed. While we should be grieved and while we should not approve of such behavior, the reality that someone would do something so horrible is the very evidence that we live in a fallen world and sin still reigns in the hearts of many until the return of King Jesus.
But keep in mind one important reality, the difference between Stephen Paddock and ourselves may not be so far off. As Paddock was born dead in his trespasses and sins, so are all of us. We may look at this situation and think, “I would never do something so terrible. I have never murdered anyone. I have never stolen anything. I can’t be as bad as this guy. I’m a pretty good person.” While culture might agree with this line of thinking and say, “you are right, you are not that bad of a person,” Scripture says otherwise. Scripture contends that you and I are the same person as Stephen Paddock within the eyes of God. Scripture indicates that we share the same standing before a High and Holy God which is condemned, enemies, and guilty. Apart of the grace and mercy of God we stand in unity with Stephen Paddock.
While this is naturally the case, this is not the supreme verdict declared upon us all because of Christ. Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:4-9, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV). Keep in mind where salvation comes from. It is a “gift from God.” Paul says that your salvation has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your goodness, or how good of a person you are, or how many good works you have done. It is strictly a gift given to you based upon God’s good pleasure. It is given to you despite the fact that you possess the same sinful nature as Stephen Paddock. It is given by grace and mercy despite your own depravity.
So when you think about Las Vegas, when you think about Stephen Paddock, when you think about this tragic event, grieve and pray for these families effected. Pray God might use these undesirable circumstances for His glory and the exaltation of Christ. But also thank our Great God for your salvation. Thank God that He rescued you from a life that could have resulted in the very same thing. Thank God that despite your wicked heart and hostility towards Him, by grace you have been saved through faith, not of your own doing, but based upon what has been gifted you in Christ.