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Tree of Life Shooting: The “Heart” of the Problem

Already, we’re seeing tweets and headlines regarding hate and bigotry, gun control, hate speech, and the volatile socio-political climate. Granted, all of these, to one degree or another, have a place in the conversation, but they all miss the point.


The news about the mass shooting in Squirrel Hill on October 27th, which left eleven dead, was a shock, not because of the extreme depravity which was once again on display, but because it happened so close to home. It was almost surreal to scroll through national news headlines and see the names of streets I recognize and landmarks I’ve been to. You never expect “these things” to happen in your own backyard.

Mass shootings, tragically, are nothing new to Americans – we’ve had more than our fair share in recent years. Already, we’re seeing tweets and headlines regarding hate and bigotry, gun control, hate speech, and the volatile socio-political climate. Granted, all of these, to one degree or another, have a place in the conversation, but they all miss the point.

What happened at Tree of Life Synagogue, on those all-too-familiar streets, is an example of the sinfulness of man, and how deep that sinfulness runs. What we must all understand, is that every single person, because of our deep-rooted sin, is capable of that kind of display of wickedness. Paul quotes of the natural man that “their feet are swift to shed blood” (Rom. 3:15), and Jeremiah lets us know that “the heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). These, along with numerous other texts, should leave us unsurprised at the capacity of man to carry out such sin.

But why so often? Why has the past decade or so seen more gun violence than the majority of American history which preceded it? We could go to the world to look for solutions to this problem: tighter gun laws, posting armed guards in public institutions, or reconciling political extremes. But I propose we look to Scripture for the answer.

It is no coincidence that the serious uptick in violence we’ve seen has come part and parcel with the ever intensifying rejection of, and hostility toward, the one true God. In the deconstructionist world in which we live, the authority of Scripture is seen as oppressive, so, systematically, the natural restraint on society that comes with a strong Christian influence is vanishing, We’ve seen it occur in the various sexual revolutions, feminist movements, and we’re experiencing now the increasing normality of mass violence. We are seeing, in this nation and even in our own city, what Paul warns of in Romans 1:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Rom. 1:28-31)


When people continue to harden their hearts against God, continue to rebel, refuse to repent and to acknowledge God as their sovereign King, He begins to lift the restraints; man is left to the autonomy which he wants, and the depth of sin becomes more evident and undeniable. This is the time in which we find ourselves.

The Church, to a degree, is complicit in this. We ought not measure the faithfulness of the Church by the society around it; however, when the Church lives up to her calling, it will be evident in society. We are called to be salt and light, to be witnesses to the truth, to turn the world upside down with the gospel.

As a Church, we’ve compromised. We’ve failed to call out sin as sin, to condemn it as lawlessness, and to warn of its eternal consequences. We’ve failed to press God’s holiness, wrath, and justice against unrighteousness. In many cases, churches have sought to assimilate to the world, and as a result, have put themselves at enmity with God (Jms. 4:4). So there is no longer any fear of God or real consequences for sin, and popular Christianity is just another form of therapy.

This shooting must be a wake-up call to we Christians in Pittsburgh. We must be strong and unrelenting in our preaching of an uncensored, unsanitized gospel. Why would we seek to look like a world that hates the God we serve? We cannot condone or excuse this despicable sin, or any other sin to which it is much easier to turn a blind eye. Instead of trying to make Christianity fit into the framework of secularism, we need to challenge the entire unbelieving worldview, as it inevitably leads to the horrible depravity that we saw in Squirrel Hill on Saturday.

As Christians, we must come alongside those affected by this shooting with comfort and mercy, by whatever means we can. We must acknowledge that what took place was sin, which demands justice. And we must continue to preach the only message which can truly transform the wicked heart and bring lasting change, that of reconciliation to the one true God through the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

We mourn alongside the families and friends of those whose lives were lost, we steadfastly pray for all those affected, and we trust in the promise that our sovereign God uses all things — even as evil as this — ultimately for His glory and the good of His people (Rom 8:28).

Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA. Click here for more RCSH Blog posts.
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2 Responses to “Tree of Life Shooting: The “Heart” of the Problem”

  1. Brenda Galino says:

    Thank you so much for speaking truth and not side stepping the real issue that many church’s seem to do now . You are right the problem is unrepented sin and the only solution to the problem is the blood of Jesus Christ . Only Jesus can set the sinner free .

  2. Diane Ward says:


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