Our town has been shaken by a horrific tragedy. Worlds were turned upside down in an instance Saturday because of a senseless act of violence.

No one has come to terms with the shock, let alone the loss of two individuals in a despicably monstrous act.  

Witness a heroic father protecting his family, a loving mother dutifully at work and a deranged criminal out on early release.

Twenty-six-year-old Megan Staats, the convenience store clerk who was shot dead, recently accompanied an autistic family friend to his senior prom. Jeremy Apperson, 33, a transport fuel truck driver filling up with gas, was described as the type of guy who would basically give you the shirt off of his back, according to friends and co-workers.

This vile suspect should have never been free on our streets to bring his deranged personal hell to our quiet town and invade — nay, destroy — the lives of these good people.

Police are still gathering the facts and determining the timeline – but we could sit until the final Judgement, and no reasoning on earth could possibly explain away a motive and what has transpired. There is no logic except to say that evil exists. Hell is real. The devil is roaming like a lion.

Among the heroes are the police and 911 dispatchers.

Based on 911 radio logs, the first call came in at 5:30 p.m., officers arrived on scene at 5:33 p.m. and had the suspect in custody at 5:35 p.m. near the Econo Lodge breezeway not far from the convenience store he fled on foot.

If anybody questions police raises in the 2019 budget, they should be publicly shamed. You want somebody who is making a living wage tracking the kind of evil unleashed Saturday. Give the police a pay raise.

We broke the elemental foundations of society long ago and increasingly have no consensus on what makes a good and righteous society.

The Bible has either been chucked aside as mere history or re-interpreted to meet the fashion of the day – increasingly less a universal standard for truth, justice and personal salvation through Christ alone as our nation comes apart at the seams.

For half a century now, we have attempted to free ourselves from many of the old, bad ways of doing things and for a time the future looked bright.

The only thing constant is change, but not all change is good either.

We needed change 60 years ago as old prejudices remained obstacles to brighter, better futures. But the problem with change is that many see it as an opportunity for revolution and destruction, as we’ve seen with the recent love of socialism.

By any discernable statistic, all of our communities have suffered in terms of family life. Our politicians have advocated short-term fixes that have only exacerbated sins of oppression and forced government dependency.  

Parents no longer pass on their faith and values so the broader community benefits from a unified Christian ethic.

We may have been somewhat freed from old prejudices, but we have developed newer toxic ones.

Freedom has consequences and responsibilities, yet entire cultures fail when free.

Violence may begin in the heart, but a society warring with the truth is like a greenhouse for sin.

“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly,” Mark warns.

As our community continues the process of grieving, the challenge will be what comes next.

What are we going to do?

The Apostle Paul advises, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We can be encouraged by the kindnesses of the strangers from Livingston, Ala., who comforted Apperson’s son in the midst of that chaotic scene.

The accused killer lived on Manship street behind Baptist hospital in Jackson, one of the most blighted parts of the city.

Midtown is a place the Gospel needs to be preached, and the Lord needs people willing to go — and those who will pray for healing and restoration through Christ.