Herbie Newell, President of Lifeline Children’s Services
On Wednesday, February 14, 2018 Nikolas Cruz, a 19 year old young man, opened gun fire with an AR-15 at about 2:18 p.m. EST in Parkland, FL at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Mr. Cruz killed 17 people and wounded many others, while leaving an otherwise sleepy community in devastated shock.
The New York Times released an article on February 15 by Richard Faussett and Serge Kovaleski, claiming Cruz demonstrated “red flags” that should have alerted others to pay closer attention to his behavior. The “red flags” included the following information:
- Diagnoses of depression, ADHD, and autism
- Adoption at a young age, along with his brother, by older parents (48 & 61)
- Witnessing his dad’s death by heart attack at the age of 5
- Mom’s death in November 2017
- Being ostracized by classmates and becoming a reject
- Expulsion from Stoneman Douglas high school for assaulting another student
In the aftermath of a tragedy like this, we have questions and want to see these types of things STOPPED. Governor Rick Scott of Florida went as far as to promise, to “do everything he can to make sure this never happens again.” So what can we do; what should we do; and what is our response to situations like this from a Christian worldview? In 2017, our country averaged over a school shooting each week. What’s the answer to this crisis?
Jeremiah 17:5 reads, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.’”
According to Jeremiah, gun control alone will not stop violence. As a matter of fact, we are cursed if we trust in the illustrious policies of man to solve this dilemma. We cannot solve school shootings with politics alone. Our politics cannot stop violence and hurt or even begin to heal our land. It is not man or the systems created by man that can heal pain.
Jeremiah 17:6 states that the one who trusts in the flesh, “is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
This is our current culture—parched and in the wilderness. We have immense prosperity, riches, assets, and weaponry, but we have forsaken the Lord. We have racial discord, violence, thievery, selfishness, anger, divorce, and abortion. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
These truths should not lead us to be fatalistic because Jeremiah reminds us in 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man . . . whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water . . . and does not fear when heat comes . . . and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” As God’s people, we must trust fully in God and do what He says if we want to see healing in our land.
The Bible teaches that man is accountable for his own actions; however, I wonder what would have happened if the Church had reached out and shown love, care, and concern to Nikolas Cruz. What could have happened if the gospel of grace would have been displayed? I am not absolving Nikolas Cruz of evil, and he must stand trial for his wrong doings—both in a court of law and in the court of heaven.
The question is, though, what might have happened if the church had taken an active role to help Nikolas’s mother Lynda, a widow taking care of 2 boys? What would have happened if the church had supported and held up this struggling family by pointing them to the grace of Jesus? What could the outcome have been if Nikolas had known of Jesus?
Beloved, we are called to care for orphans and widows, not because it’s easy, comfortable, or convenient, but because when we display the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the vulnerable, it begins to take root and change their lives.
Let’s be clear, I’m not ascribing fault and blame in the case of Nikolas Cruz, to him or to anyone in his life who tried to care for him, but I want us—as believers—to dig deep and ask ourselves what can we do to manifest the gospel to our neighbors, the poor, the orphan and widow. Do you know a child in crisis like Nikolas Cruz? Do you know a family on the verge of crisis?
When we stand in the gap for children and families, we just might be keeping another kid off the streets and out of trouble. When we disciple and equip vulnerable children overseas either through adoption or orphan care we might be training up the next leader who makes the gospel known to the nations.
This will cost us our comfort, our ease, and potentially our reputations. But this is the call of the gospel found in James 1:27. The call is to reach into the distress and the messy, to those who have been ostracized because they have no one to stand up for them. God is asking us to stand up for the orphan and the widow and to put our lives in action for them.
Isaiah speaks of this hope in Isaiah 61:1-3:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
The Chinese character for “crisis” is part of the character set that makes up the Chinese words for “danger” and “opportunity.” That may seem perplexing and counterintuitive, but I believe it is profound.
We have an orphan crisis in our country and in our world. We have a problem in the United States of pervasive fatherlessness. It’s chronic and dangerous: over 50% of American children born this year will be born to single women. Beloved, this is a CRISIS!
Just after the shooting in Florida, Fox News released an article declaring, “Boys are broken.” They found a common thread between most mass murderers—they are fatherless. CNN compiled a list of the deadliest shootings in US history (34), noting that all the shooters were men, save one instance involving a husband and wife couple.
Warren Farrell, the author of The Boy Crisis, said after a 2013 shooting, “We blame guns, violence in the media, violence in video games, and poor family values. Each is a plausible player, but our daughters live in the same homes, with the same access to the same guns, video games and media and are raised with the same family values. Our daughters are not killing. Our sons are.”
The reason that “boys are broken” is deeper than policy changes, politics, NRA regulations, and even our government can fix. The reason is deeper and requires more from us than we are willing to give. But how many more innocent children will have to die before we look at the root cause of brokenness in these boys?
Boys have lost their identity. Boys were meant to be image bearers of the Creator as they show the strength, character, and stability of our great God. Men are lost wasting their time on video games, smart phones, and digital infidelity and adultery. Men of God, we must embrace the gospel, get in the game, and wrap our lives around the boys in our home and in our community by pointing them to the gospel of a Father that fights for His children not with violence towards others, but by laying down His own life.
It’s easy to see the DANGER in today’s CRISIS, but do we see the OPPORTUNITY. Have we rejoiced in the OPPORTUNITY? Have we seized the opportunity? Our God is inviting us into these places to care for the orphan and the widow and ultimately to see the gospel change their reality and story.
There is no opportunity without crisis and impending danger. So the question is, will you seize the opportunity that the Lord has placed at your feet to faithfully follow Christ Jesus into the dangerous, perilous, and messy world of orphan care, foster care, and adoption? You have the opportunity to answer the call for every believer of James 1:27, which reminds us that pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God our Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Will you seize the opportunity to show hope and love to the Nikolas Cruz in your life, so that the gospel can change him before he makes tomorrow’s headlines?