Recently New York City has been rocked by several shootings! To start this year, 100 shootings were reported in January in the five boroughs. Two police officers were among those slain, and five others were struck by bullets. In a separate incident, an 11 month old was struck in the head by a stray bullet in street shooting. This shooting took place less than a block from where our church met for most of 2021. President Biden has visited New York City to address the rise in violence and yet nothing seems to be improving.
As a pastor, I have been asked to pray on several occasions for the direction this city is heading and for the safety of loved ones who work in the city at night. People are more concerned for their safety than they have been in many years.
There are several different ideas as to why the shootings have increased. Some say that it is the availability of guns. Others blame racial or social inequality. Some believe that education would make all the difference and others believe that tighter laws are needed. Though tougher law enforcement may trim the amount of shootings, the real cause of the violence in the streets cannot be changed through legislation or education. The consequences of breaking the law act a deterrent to crime, but sometimes people break the law anyway. Education may teach the mind why violence is wrong, but it is incapable of changing the hateful heart.
Wicked hearts are the real reason which violence is on the rise. By the “heart,” I don’t refer to the blood pumping organ in the chest, but I refer to the soul of a person. The soul is the part of a person that encompasses the intellect, emotions, and will. It is that part of a person which motivates him or her to action. Violence is the result of wickedness within the soul.
This is evident in the Bible as early as the sixth chapter of Genesis. In verse verses 5 and 6 we read, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” As you can see the heart of God was affected by the wicked hearts of the people whom He had created. A few verses later God summarizes again the condition upon earth. He says, “The earth was also corrupt before God, and the earth was full of violence.” Obviously, there is a connection between wicked hearts and violent actions!
When we think of the word “wicked,” we often make the mistake of thinking the worst of the worst. That is not exactly God’s definition of it. In the Bible, the wicked are those who are guilty before Him. That encompasses all humanity. All humanity is guilty of sin before God and worthy of punishment. Violence against another person is just one example of something which is worthy of God’s judgement.
In the Bible, the opposite of a wicked person is a righteous person. No one is naturally righteous, but God can make a person righteous. A person is made righteous by God when he places his faith in the Son of God alone for the cleansing from sin. Before a person can become righteous he must acknowledge his wickedness and ask for God’s forgiveness. The Scripture concludes in Romans 3:10 that “There are none righteous, no, not one.” According to God, everyone who has not placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone is a wicked person.
As New York City becomes a more secularized society and turns away from Jesus, there will be fewer and fewer righteous people and more and more wicked people. As the numbers of wicked people increase, wicked actions will increase. One of those wicked actions will be violence against others. There really is no solution to the rise of violence in any city or country other than a turning back of that society to God. Jesus said, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders.”
What New Yorkers really need is a change of heart! Some people call this change of heart a revival. We need to return to a time when God was exalted in society and in individual lives.
I believe that revival can happen in New York City, but it will only happen one person at a time. The change begins with you. If you have never placed your trust in Jesus, then that is the first step. If you desire to have Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please contact me and I would be glad to show you from the Bible how that desire can become a reality.