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westroads-mall-shooting.jpgThis afternoon, in the midst of the busy holiday shopping season, in the largest shopping mall in Omaha, an individual opened fire upon those who were in Von Maur. At this point it is too early to estimate fatalities, some reports are saying 2, others 7. Witnesses state that they heard two sets of shooting flurries each including about 20-30 rounds.

This mall, the Westroads Mall, is about 2 miles from my house. This is very much in my backyard, in the city that I have come to love. I learned recently that some of my friends were in the mall at the time of the shooting. My wife typically enters through Von Maur as she goes and does her shopping (as she did yesterday). So from a personal standpoint this is close to home.

So as I write this the authorities are tallying the dead, notifying families, and apparently still trying to catch the shooter. I ask myself the question that both the Christian and the non-Christian are asking; “Why did this happen?”

First and foremost an event like this is a heart wrenching reminder of the devastatingly painful and absolutely brutal result of sin. The basic answer to the question as to why the trigger was pulled once, never mind 40-50 times is a rebellion from and a hatred of God. At its must fundamental sense this tragedy is rooted in a rebellion from God. The fact that people had to die today in this mall is a testimony to the vicious recourse of sin. The Scripture is clear that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6.23). Death is the sword of sin, it cuts deep and far, and spares none.

Secondly tragedy like this makes us look away from superficial hope and ask if we have anything that can outlast a bullet. What do you cling to as you scurry frantically to a dressing room in a department store when a psycho is chasing you? The gunman appears sovereign, what do you do?

Judging from the gut-wrenching testimonies of those who were trapped in the various cubby holes of the mall trying to evade the mad-man today there were very few answers, only questions. It is a tragedy like the one today in Omaha’s Westroads Mall that should force all people to examine the source and power of their hope, because when it matters hope in hope is as futile as hope in yourself. At a time of calamity you need Sovereign Goodness.

Yes sin is devastating; death is relentless. And if you and I do not have a true sovereign that can defeat such things with certainty then we are ourselves hopeless. But there is one who is just this sovereign and just this good. The Scripture tells us of Jesus who himself being God became a man with the expressed purpose of defeating death by disarming sin of its power. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of the most high God, who is Sovereign and good, and able to save sinners from the deadly enemy of death. It is Jesus who gave his life as a sufficient sacrifice to pay the death penalty due to rebels like us. He died upon the cross and rose victoriously from the grave. The Scripture says he was “declared the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1.4). His resurrection from the dead is the proof that death and sin have been defeated.

One day there was a tragedy with a similar story as the one that we have today. Many folks died and the people questioned how they should react to it. Jesus answers was amazingly short and profound. He said, “Unless you repent you too will perish” (Luke 13.3).

This is the message in this tragedy. Yes this is horrible. Yes it hurts. But, the greater tragedy is to turn away from such things without repenting, or turning from sin. Tragedies such as this become a merciful divine declaration that God is angry with sin. To make it personal, God is angry with us. I do not deserve to live one second in rebellion from him, much less enjoy this world that he made. Days like today remind us that we need to turn from sinful rebellion and bow before Jesus Christ as the glorious king of heaven and the savior of the world. For it is Jesus Christ alone who has the power to defeat death and provide hope. Yes Jesus Christ is the only one to conquer death and rise from the dead. Jesus Christ is the only one who declares that if you believe in him you will never see death (Jn. 8.51).

Do you see how powerful these words are on a day like today?

If you are not trusting in Jesus this very hour for your standing of forgiveness before the righteous and holy judge of heaven and earth then this tragedy is a gracious gift of God whereby he says to you, “Repent, or you too will perish!” Yes this is the ultimate tragedy. There is one who has defeated death, he can give hope, he gives life; his name is Jesus. To reject him is a tragedy. For it is Jesus who says, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10.28)

If you live in Omaha and want to talk with someone about this tragedy email info@omahabiblechurch.org. If you would like more information about the gospel of Jesus Christ read this.

It is my prayer that through a tragedy like this Christians would cling harder to the grace that they are given to behold and believe in Christ, and in this clinging we might ever increase in our savoring of his sufficiency.

And if you are not a Christian, I pray that God would use such a tragedy to cause you to look away from yourself for hope, see your sin, and find Christ to be infinitely precious and beautiful to your sin-ladened conscience. It is in this looking away from yourself and looking unto Christ that you find hope; hope in his sufficiency and in his glorious defeat of death through his death and resurrection.

You may find these articles helpful as well:

Radio Interview on the Omaha Shootings (Irish Calvinist)

Robert Hawkins, his heart speaks from the grave(Irish Calvinist)

Gun violence in Omaha hits too close to home

Virginia Tech Shootings: what people are asking and what Christians should say (Irish Calvinist)

John Piper on the I-35 Bridge Collapse



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21 thoughts on “How do you respond to the shootings at Omaha’s Westroads Mall?”

  1. Bryan says:

    I don’t want to spread numbers around, but I’ve heard these figures the most, and they seem to be confirmed: 9 dead (including the shooter), 5 injured.

    My prayers go out to Omaha. A sick reminder of the depravity of man. Keep us up-to-date

  2. Thanks for covering this breaking story. We’re featuring your site from the Blews.Network.

  3. wisecarver says:

    I was listening to our local radio station and they described the shooter as someone who, “Is one of those people in our society that are ‘wired’ differently.” This should be a sobering reminder and an urgent call for men to be faithful to the truths of the Gospel during these times. We should be like Paul, begging men/women to be reconciled to God. It is only by God’s grace that I was not there and that I wasn’t the one pulling the trigger.

  4. yhadz says:

    It’s alarming that this kid didn’t have the support system that he needed. I came across an article that mentioned the kid was depressed: lost his job, his girlfriend, kicked out of his house… once a person feels that kind of loss no saying what might go through his head. At times when family and friends seem to let you down, it’s always a comfort knowing that God watches over us.

  5. Bruno says:

    Well said, brother Erik. Well said.

  6. Tyler says:

    I know one of the victims who is currently in critical condition. GSW to the chest. Besides the obvious thoughts of God’s sovereignty this brought to my mind, I was also impressed with God’s Common Grace which spares us from this more often.

  7. erik says:

    Tyler, the common grace factor is amazing. Without the restraining grace of God this would not be an isolated incident. And without the saving grace of God we could be gunmen. Humbling. Scary. Reality.

    praying for your friend.

  8. Andrew Walker says:

    Not to play devils advocate, but doesn’t the Calvinist position hold God culpable for this person’s actions resulting in the tragic deaths? Seriously, I am not trying to be rude or start a debate, but it is an honest questions after reading this post?

  9. erik says:

    Andrew, no worries man, you can ask legitimate questions without being labeled argumentative. You used a key word, “culpable”, so do we hold God culpable…? No. We hold God to be sovereign and omniscient, so therefore not lacking in ability to prevent or foreknowledge of the said event. The shooting in Omaha did not surprise God, for he knows everything.

    Concerning ‘disasters’ consider the following:

    Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

    Amos 3:6 Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?

    While it is not simple to understand, it is simple to deduct from Scripture that God is sovereign, good, and omniscient; and so he ordains all things that come to pass, even devastating things like this, without being culpable. Probably the most vivid picture of this is the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ:

    Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

    This may be a bit more than you were looking for but nevertheless it seems necessary in beginning to answer your question.

    thanks,
    erik

  10. Andrew Walker says:

    Erik,
    Thanks for the reply. I found your reply biblical, succinct, and satisfying. One more queston, then I’ll quit: Do you use the word “ordain” synonomously for “permit?” Or, does “ordain” as you use it have any sense of causation attached to it?

    Blessings,
    Andrew

    P.S.- I thought your review of Pierced For Our Transgressions was wonderful. I recently read it myself and on more than one occasion had to put the book down and thank God for scholars who love His Word.

  11. Bryan it is also a sign of the times we are in:

    Matthew 24:12

    And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

  12. Kim says:

    My prayers go out to your city as well as those without Christ everywhere. This was well said and a bold explanation of the gospel. Thanks for your biblical perspective to today’s tragedies. God is sovereign over every minute of everyday. This is true.

  13. erik says:

    Andrew, I mean ordain in the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God” sense. It is nothing less than a mystery how God somehow permits and even orders such things as this for his own glory while at the same time being completely unreproachable.

    Kim, thanks for praying. I think especially about those police officers who were the first to come on the scene and to witness what they witnessed.

  14. Jon Wymer says:

    Erik, The first article that came to mind in all this was Piper’s piece on the bridge collapse. How do we feel the pain and see the truth at the same time? Thank you for your thoughts.

  15. erik says:

    You got it Jon. I did provide a link at the bottom of the post for the Piper article. His comments are timely for this situation as well. thanks.

  16. joan durtz says:

    Here we go again, another bored white kid taking his pathetic life out on society. When are these people who are allowed to pro-create going to start parenting???? This crap didn’t happen in the 60’s and 70’s when I was growing up. Kids are so misguided by tv and celebrity and all things dillusional that they don’t even have coping skills anymore. Crazy!

    My condolences to all families involved.

  17. Josh says:

    Hi,

    We have created a free and open memorial site to pay tribute to those loved ones who have passed away and to capture a glimpse into how their memory still persists

    http://www.people-to-remember.com

    Thanks,
    Josh

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Erik Raymond


Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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