On a fine Saturday, in our valley of less than 20,000 residents, one single man let loose a tirade of hate and violence that none of us will ever forget.
June 6, 2020. Coronavirus had ravaged our world for weeks already. George Floyd had been senselessly murdered at the hands (knee) of a wicked cop in Minneapolis. And the country was outraged. Rightly so. A human life had been unjustly taken.
But the outrage that should’ve been irenic (driven by justice tempered with love and grace) became ironic (driven by the same mindless hate to which it was reacting). And so in protest of an injustice, myriad injustices have been perpetrated.
One of them here, in the lazy woods of the San Lorenzo Valley. Steven Carillo, imbibing the misguided spirit of this age and driven by untold demons, took all of his angst out on a group which he misperceived to embody the problem. And when he did, Sgt Damon Gutzwiller and his colleague Alex Spencer were caught in the crosshairs.
Responding to a call-in fulfillment of their oaths to keep the peace, Gutzwiller and Spencer walked into an ambush driven by the anger and hatred of a vocal and violent minority. Spencer would spend a week in the hospital, recovering from wounds inflicted by a man who could not resolve his personal angst in a way that produced peace. Gutzwiller died that day, leaving a young child and a wife expecting their next to forever endure the consequences of a worldview gone horribly wrong.
Damon Gutzwiller and Alex Spender epitomized the best in us all, as those who are created in the image of God in this sin-cursed world. They sought to protect and to serve, counting the cost to themselves, even when that cost amounted to their lives.
The SLV residents who put their own lives on the line to apprehend Carillo before he could do more harm to our community also reflected the image of God in whom they are created. Loving. Selfless. Sacrificial.
In the calculus of the brief (but devastating) events of our little San Lorenzo Valley on June 6, 2020, I see a microcosm of our society, and a lesson from which we must all learn.
Carillo was a single, sinful, misguided man in a community of 20,000. His hatred and violence was outnumbered 2-1 by the two deputies who laid everything down to protect us all. 4-1 by the lives of the SLV residents who also counted the cost to apprehend him. 5,000-1 by the LEO community who all manifested the righteousness and justice of God in coming together, without hesitation, to help each other and us all. 20,000-1 by the overall population of the SLV. 100,000-1 by the multitude of supporters who rallied to give thanks to the Law Enforcement community that responded and helped our county in this time of need.
In the current culture war, please don’t join forces with the minority of hatred and destruction. Recognize that the hatred is not endemic to our Police or society in general. Recognize that we all have gone astray from God and His will, and desperately need His grace. Recognize the superiority of love and grace, and that these are universal truths that God has created for all men to abide in.
If God does not exist, then there is no basis for the morality and justice which have become such palpable cravings these recent weeks. If truth and justice are binding for us all (as most of us have felt these past weeks), then it is only because we are made in the image of God who defines truth and justice. What our world needs is to be reconciled to Him, and to consistently abide in the life-ethic of His holiness, justice, truth, and love as the universally governing compass of our lives and society.
The hate is strong in this world. But it is the voice of the vocal and violent minority. It is no match for the love, grace, and peace of God, which all who are made in His image must sacrificially shine into this world in the darkness of these days.
Violence and destruction are not the answer. It is the kindness of God in the Gospel which we all need that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4).
Now is the time to come to Him, confessing our own failures and sins, and joining together in faith to let His Love overwhelm the hatred of this world.
Steve Watkins has served as an Elder at Trinity Bible Church since 2001. Steve graduated with a BS in Biblical Studies from the Master’s College in 1997, and with an MA in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary in California in 2001. He is a full-time pastor at TBC, focused on preaching, biblical counseling, and discipleship. He and Wendy have been married since 1996, and have 3 boys - Justin, Travis, and Spencer. www.tb-church.org