It is always a pleasure to visit with my friends at AM 1160 in Chicago on Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand. The following is the transcript of the interview done on February 20, 2018 where we discuss the recent school shooting in Florida. Note: the content has been edited slightly for readability.
Mark Elfstrand: Well, my next guest is our friend, Josh Weidmann. Josh is a senior pastor at Grace Chapel, just outside of Denver, Colorado. He is an author and he is a dad and he just can’t have enough kids. He loves children. He’s traveled the world as a writer and speaker proclaiming the gospel and the good news resonates in his heart as well.
Pastor, good afternoon again my friend.
Josh Weidmann: Hey Mark. Great to hear your voice. I love that. I haven’t been described before as the guy who can’t have enough kids, but I think that’s an absolutely true statement. I love them.
Mark Elfstrand: Well, you keep having them. That’s the thing, well, not you, but your wife does.
Josh Weidmann: I know, man. People said to me before, “Don’t you love … do you just love kids?” And say, “Well, I just love my wife. I think that’s what’s going on there.” But, yes, of course, I love kids. So, we’re pregnant with number five and due in August.
Mark Elfstrand: Yeah and by the way, it’s actually good that she loves kids.
Josh Weidmann: Yes, exactly. She does.
Mark Elfstrand: Makes a big difference in this. Well, once again, in the United States of America, we have come across another tragedy as it relates to a school shooting. And really before Columbine, I don’t recall when our country became as sensitive to this issue. You have a pretty strong familiarity with Columbine, but I’ve noticed that in this one, Pastor, that these kids are using anger to process their grief. Part of that anger is at the generation above them for [quote], “Not doing more.” I’d just like your thoughts on all this.
Josh Weidmann: Yeah. Well, yeah, I was struck on Thursday morning when I woke up, somebody told me about the shooting that had happened and I was at a counseling conference … and I was thinking about, wow, all the flood of memories of what happened here in 1999 and I think prior to that, there weren’t major shootings, at least in schools. And Columbine is still … I found it even interesting with this tragedy, it’s still the event that everybody, even national media keep referring back to even though it was so many years ago. It always comes up every time there’s a shooting. Be it at a university, an elementary school, or a high school, it just keeps coming up.
And I know this is the largest mass shooting we’ve seen in a high school since Columbine, so I know what it’s like to feel those emotions of anger. I’ll be honest with you, even I sat there in my hotel room after somebody just told me about what had happened, I couldn’t help it. I have this sense, of man, how is this still happening? How are we still dealing with this and almost feeling anger about what did we not do previous to this event to stop things like this from happening?
I will add though, if it wasn’t for the tragedy that happened at Columbine, I never would’ve been called in … well, I mean, God’s sovereign. He could’ve called me any way He wanted, but I’ve felt very clearly called into full-time ministry because of what happened five miles from my home here in Littleton. And so, I know that God redeems tragedies like this and I have no doubt that He’s going to in Florida. In fact, one of my friends, who was in the Columbine tragedy, left on a plane last weekend to go speak to over 20,000 people and share her story and about her own wounds that she dealt with from there.
So, that’s a long introduction to say, I think anger, and emotion, and all of that is a very real feeling. And anger towards the past and past generations for not stopping some of this sooner. Those are all real emotions. The Bible shows us that anger is a real emotion that both we and God feel, but how we direct our anger and what we do with our anger, I think gets to the core of your question.
I do think we have to be careful, especially as believers, who have our hope in Jesus Christ, to not be angry because as I’ve said before, anger is a dead-end street in and of itself. Anger is a cul-de-sac in our emotions, right? You get there, and you get stuck there and you could stay there forever, but that’s not how God intended it.
We can have anger, but we’re told to be angry righteously, Ephesians 4:26. And so processing that correctly and finding ourselves to understand or trust God more, should be the goal of all anger.
So, I think and the bottom line answer, it’s okay to feel angry. It’s not okay to stay angry. And I think we have to use our emotion of anger to go before the Lord, who’s big enough to handle our anger and say, “Father, help me with this. I’m mad. I’m mad at previous generations. I’m mad at the circumstance. I might even mad at you, but help me understand, how do I get past this and process our emotions biblically?”
Mark Elfstrand: Now, Dylan Klebold was one of the names in the Columbine. I can’t think of the other man’s name right now. Young man’s name.
Josh Weidmann: Eric, yeah.
Mark Elfstrand: Yeah, okay and they were involved in it often times looked like some really dark activity.
Josh Weidmann: Right.
Mark Elfstrand: And this young man in Florida, also was involved in that dark activity. He even claims that hearing voices. I get troubled when I hear a story like that, partially because you never know. I mean, is that like a defense, “Oh, yeah. The guy was hearing voices.” But, maybe he was. But, in both of those cases, I’ve heard it said, you know, often times that a term comes up like, “These people are pure evil.”
Josh Weidmann: Right.
Mark Elfstrand: And I don’t think that’s necessarily an accurate description because if that’s the case, to some degree, we’d say, “Well, are they beyond redemption or beyond salvation?” Thoughts on this, please.
Josh Weidmann: Yeah, for sure. So, I don’t think we can name anyone that is created by God and in the image of God to say that they’re pure evil, right? And I understand what it’s like to have these kinds of tragedies with Eric and Dylan what they did down the street at Columbine. The Aurora shooting that wasn’t far from us and I could list several other shootings of which I have friends or people that were associated with, or around, or in.
And we could go, “Man, that shooter’s just downright evil.” Right? Well, listen. Every single person is created in the image of God. We are the visible representation of God on earth. We all bear his image. And so, even those who do evil things, bear the image of God, so to say that they’re pure evil or them as an image bearer of God as pure evil, that might be taking it too far.
Now, what they do is absolutely sinful, and it is absolutely evil. And I do believe that there is a level of evil that exists in the world that allows people who don’t know Jesus Christ to be kind of overtaken by evil and to do evil actions. Those of us who know Jesus Christ, we can’t be possessed by the evil one. We can’t … we can be oppressed. He can come against us, but we can’t be possessed by him.
Yet, there are some who don’t know Christ and the darkness is still within them, the bible says. And I know that the devil can come in and work his evil schemes through people, but they themselves are image bearers of God. So, I do think we have to be careful of how we talk about other people that bear the image of God and how we talk about evil and oppression in the world.
Ultimately, it’s the evil one who wants to undo everything God has done, which includes getting rid of God’s image in other people and in this tragedy, it was 17 innocent people that were image bearers of God, that their life was taken away from them. And that’s Satan’s whole plan. He wants to go after that.
Mark Elfstrand: All right, so you are in a state where Columbine took place and as you noted a couple of other rather serious shootings, one of them not too far from Colorado Springs at a church on a Sunday morning too. I believe that happened a few years back.
Josh Weidmann: Yeah, New Life. Yep.
Mark Elfstrand: Yeah, okay so you’ve had these and now this parishioner comes up to you and said, “Pastor, I think we as a church need to get behind the idea that we need to get guns banned here in Colorado.” And I’m sure in Colorado, there are plenty of people who own guns.
Josh Weidmann: Hey, we’re the wild west out here, man. We’ve got a lot of people … actually, I tell people that on any given Sunday, I probably have more people than we even want to know that are carrying a gun with them, legally, of course, but they’re carrying a gun with them. It’s just how it is out here. The second amendment’s a big deal, but I stood in front of our congregation on Sunday, and I said to them, “Listen, another tragedy has happened at a school. It rings very true in my heart. It really makes me passionate for the church to stand up and be the church because I saw what happened after Columbine.”
So, we took some time to pray for the church in Florida and the church even in the greater United States, but I said this to them, I said, “We don’t have a gun problem. We have a Genesis 3 problem.” We have an ‘evil exists in the hearts of men’ problem. And I believe, while we may need to address gun control and all of these things; those are just simple by-products of tragedies like this. So I’m not saying that there isn’t legitimacy to those conversations, but for us as believers to run first and say it’s a gun problem before we run first and say it’s a Genesis 3 problem. And Genesis 3 is where the fall of man happened, and evil entered into the world and sin entered into the world.
Without us first running there and saying, “This is the problem. Evil is the problem. Sin is part of the world.” If we’re not first saying that as Christians, we’re undermining what I think we really need to be getting in the midst of all this. And that is while we have a Genesis 3 problem, we have been given a John 3 solution, right, which is: For God so loved the world, that He gave his only son.
So, we have a Genesis 3 problem, but we have a John 3 solution and we should be preaching the gospel to a world that desperately needs it before we start going down a path of talking about gun control or gun rights.
Mark Elfstrand: All right. Kind of in a similar vein, but one last question. We have about a minute and a half here, but you know, if one of your parishioners came up to you, because I know Colorado has very liberal marijuana legislation that’s been passed there.
Josh Weidmann: Yeah.
Mark Elfstrand: And they came up to you as a Pastor after a service, and said, “Pastor, do you support that? Why or why not?” How would you answer?
Josh Weidmann: That has happened, quite often. I mean, we’re one of the eight states in the nation that allow it and it’s legalized here. You know, there’s several things that I’ve mentioned before related to that. One of the things that I’ve mentioned, this is maybe something that’s unknown to some, but while marijuana is legal in Colorado and other states are debating whether they should make it legal or not, it’s still illegal with the federal government.
And I think there’s this debate between local and federal authorities. And we’re told as Christians to submit to the government that is over us and so, one of the things I’ve mentioned before is, “Hey, listen. We need to still respect the authority that is above us, which ultimately goes up to the federal authority.” And I think that’s something that isn’t a Christian liberty. I think God’s been very clear, “Obey your authority. Obey your leaders.”
So, that’s one thing that I’ve mentioned, but I think the major thing I’ve mentioned is, “Listen, this takes over the mind and we are told as believers to only have the holy spirit and the power of God take over our mind.” And while people say it’s more relaxing or it helps them kind of get into an altered state of reality, I’ve heard it all here in Colorado.
Mark Elfstrand: Sure.
Josh Weidmann: I’ve also said, “Well, listen. I should know as a believer, my hope is in Christ and while I would love to escape some of the pain of this life, I should never subject myself to substances to find ways to get out of reality. I should lean only on Christ.” So, those are some of things that I’ve mentioned, Mark. There’s a couple other reasons that I’ve mentioned before, just related to biblical truth about respecting life.
There’s lots of tragedies and accidents that have happened because of legalization of marijuana here in Colorado and in other states. And I’ve just said, “Guys, I think it’s something we as Christians don’t say is a liberty for us, just because it’s lawful, doesn’t mean it’s right.” As Paul said in 1st Corinthians 6, so let’s respect our authority and respect ultimately our God who wants us to be … He wants to be the only one in control of our mind.
Mark Elfstrand: Very good. Pastor Josh Weidmann, always a joy to speak with you, my friend. And if people want to connect with you, you’ve got lots of books, videos, sermons, all kinds of stuff at your website. How can people reach you?
Josh Weidmann: Yeah, go on over to my website joshweidmann.com. J-O-S-H-W-E-I-D-M-A-N-N and we have great sermons, also I post every week on gracechapel.org.
Mark Elfstrand: Okay, and thanks so much for your time today.
Josh Weidmann: Thanks, Mark. Good talking with you.
Mark Elfstrand: And blessings to you. We’ll take a time out and I’ll tell you what’s going to be coming up next in just a moment.