The New King James Version includes “murders” among the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Most other versions leave it out; evidently the older documents tend not to include it. Regardless, I doubt anyone would have difficulty with the idea of murder being included among the acts brought on by a wanton, godless lifestyle.
We likely would be more comfortable if it were left out. A world characterized by “strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying,” — we could manage that. We all can relate to such things; most of us have at least dipped our toe into more than a few of them. And without such things, what would we find to watch on television?
Regarding “drunkenness, carousing, and things like these,” we can all agree we are better off without them. But as long as they stay on the other side of town, or after hours, or behind closed doors, we can convince ourselves that they do not touch our lives directly. On the rare occasion you hear of a drunk driver crashing into an innocent bystander. But by and large, we can keep this sort of depravity at bay.
This brings me to “immorality, impurity, sensuality” — the hedonistic, sex-charged lifestyle choices so revered by our neighbors, and so prevalent in the entertainment we purchase. This also is a category of sin that is easily kept at arm’s length — or so it would seem. All one has to do to remain faithful to one’s spouse is to sprinkle in an occasional good decision. For whatever reason, it seems this is increasingly difficult in our culture; divorce among self-identifying “Christians” is more or less the same as the population at large, and many of our brethren have gone through the process themselves.
But perhaps “difficult” is the wrong choice of words; it implies we struggle for our marriages and somehow fail, that our best efforts and best teaching wind up being insufficient to ward off the advances of the devil.
Maybe the truth is uglier. Maybe we just don’t care that much.
Living in Satan’s world wreaks havoc on our souls. Before long we find ourselves in a situation where lying, cheating, stealing, and generally sinning are completely appropriate measures in pursuit of our objectives — objectives which ceased to be heavenly long before, whether we realized it or not.
In a nutshell, that is why someone wakes up on a Friday morning and starts shooting people on an air base. Because the lusts of the flesh have won.
Thankfully, there is a treatment that can provide immunity on an individual basis — and even reverse the symptoms among those suffering even the worst effects a devil’s world can bring. This, of course, is the “fruit of the Spirit,” enumerated in the same context: ”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). By fostering the growth of such things in our hearts, we will find we “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). With our heart united in a pursuit of the fear of God (Psalm 68:11), we will have little time and less interest in the enticements of the world.
Being a Christian, and trying daily to become a better one, will have little to no effect on the number of mass shootings we see in our society or even in our neighborhoods. But if it saves us and our own, surely that is incentive enough. And who knows? Perhaps our good influence will be just the thing God uses to bring a lost soul back from the brink of destruction.