Violence in our society is a perplexing reality.

If we look at it in terms of statistics, there is less killing and crime in many categories than in many years.

When we see the daily litany of murder stories on the news, though, and compare our nation to other nations, we are appalled at the spectacles of Newtown and Orlando and now Las Vegas.

In every case, our own people take up weapons of mass violence and irrationally rain death upon the innocent.

We try to understand the motives. Often, it is some misguided sense of revolution or cause, but more often than not, it is rooted in a broken mind, disconnected finally from reality and responsibility or planted deeply in the fertile garden of anger and grudges. Sometimes, there is simply no answer at all.

In the early 17th century, Thomas Helwys, one of our first Baptist ancestors, wrote a tract called “The Mystery of Iniquity.”

While he was writing from prison about the injustice of religious persecution, he took the title from 1 Thessalonians 2:7 where Paul speaks of the mystery of lawlessness and evil in the world, where oppression, murder and corruption destroy the intention of God for humanity.

Our country has been battered in the last month – three devastating storms and now a senseless act of violence, the taking of so many beautiful and productive lives for no apparent reason, and certainly for no worthy one.

There are resentments and causes and conflicts in the world, but the way of unforgiveness, irrational hate, murder and violence, the enemies of the way of Jesus, finally make no sense. They are the mystery of all that is against God’s purposes.

We mourn today, again, exhausted with mourning, a world of constant grieving and creation of new pain and grudges.

The gospel (good news) of Jesus is not a mere hobby for certain personalities. We are in a deadly earnest contest of reality, one that needs us to tell and live and mend and pray.

We live in the shadow of iniquity that threatens to end all that we know and love unless we repent and believe and renew our common and individual lives.

Laws are needed but they will not finally solve lawlessness alone. We need transformation of the human heart.

To the victims in Las Vegas, we offer our prayers and hear a call to stand clearly for life, for healing, for repentance and faith. Only these can sustain us.

Gary Furr is pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A version of this article first appeared on Vestavia Hill’s pastor’s blog and is used with permission. His writings also appear on his personal blog, Flat Pickin’ Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @FurrGary.

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