Response to Evil

Recent events inevitably evoke the question of "why".  How could this have happened.  Why did it happen.  Where was God?

People far greater than I have addressed that question.  Some have answered it well.  Others have not, in my opinion.  I certainly do not have answers that are sufficient to heal the pain being felt in Connecticut.  Or Aurora.  Or Virginia Tech.  Or Columbine.  Or any of those other places where senseless tragedy has occurred.  But I have some thoughts to share in hopes that I can offer some hope and peace to us.

First, WHY.  Why did this happen?  In an effort to make sense of such tragedies, our response is often a knee-jerk reaction to try and protect ourselves from such pain ever again.  While I am supportive of security measures - certainly where precious children are involved - gun control and impregnable institutions are not the answer.  Nothing is foolproof.  No place is unassailable.  And, as a Christian, I must come to terms with the Truth that God is sovereign.  Being sovereign and omnipotent, He could  protect us from all evil.  And sometimes, He certainly does.  But sometimes, He obviously does not.  I cannot explain why some children were spared and others weren't.  He is God and I am not.  But I do know that He created a perfect world that included people with the free exercise of will.  The ability to love and obey Him or to not. And people (that would include you and me, not just Adam and Eve) exercised that free will and ruined His perfect world.  The effects of sin, compounded generation after generation, result in unimaginable evil.    The choices of all people impact all other people.  (We tend to ignore that immutable truth - on small scale and large scale.)  This world is scarred and troubled.  And while we live in it, we are going to be impacted by the actions of others.  Others are impacted by our actions.  And, although I would love to believe that all people are basically good, that is the furthest from Truth that I can get.  All people are basically bad and in need of a Savior.  And I hate this part but I must say it -- all people are capable of all sorts of evil. Man's heart is evil.  Sin has corrupted the human race.   Apart from the grace of God, every one of us has the potential to have been that shooter.

So, why does God let such horrific and unspeakable tragedies occur?  I cannot give an exhaustive answer but I do know that He allows people the freedom to choose.  And for the world to suffer the consequences of those choices. And He is not distant and unmoved and silent.  I believe there were angels all over that school yesterday. Guiding.  Directing. Comforting.  Little children are precious and priceless to Him.  He takes very seriously anyone that causes them harm.  He assures us those people will be punished.  Terribly.

I believe that He allows terrible things to happen, not only because they are consequences of the sin of mankind, but also to show His authority and capacity to bring good out of evil.  The shooter intended this for evil but God purposes it for good.  He could have opened up the Earth and swallowed that gunman up...but He didn't.  So, because He allowed it, I know that He is loving and faithful to bring everlasting good from it.  For all who are called by His name and according to His purpose.

What, then, is our response to such evil?  How do we process it?  What do we do as a result of it?  I already see many reactions and would like to offer suggestions that I believe will be productive.

1.  Grief.  Heart-wrenching, body-racking, sobbing grief.  God forbid that we should ever be callous to the consequences of evil.  Events like yesterday should evoke tears and pain and heartache.  Grieve over what has happened.  Grieve for what those victims' families are facing. Cry and sob and hurt.

2.  Compassion.  This is active grief.  Don't just feel the pain - HELP those that are hurting.  If you live nearby, get off the sofa and do something to help.  I don't know what specifically you can do but find out.  Then do it.  If you don't live nearby, you can still do something.  Ask God to show you.  I have written letters to scores of people that I don't know, just to extend sympathy and concern.  Donate to a charity in the name of a victim.  Take cookies to the police station in your area just as appreciation for their job.  I don't know what you should do but figure out a way to channel your grief into compassion for others.  Do something!!

3.  Pray.  This one can sound so glib.  Such a Sunday School answer.  But it's the truth.  Probably the most productive response to evil is to pray.(see Matthew 6:13)  Pray for the families of those who are left.  Pray for the perpetrator (if still alive)  Pray for the family and friends of the perpetrator.  Pray for those who are handling the investigation, dealing with the aftermath, making decisions.  Pray for those who witnessed it.  Those who survived.  Pray for our nation, our world....our own selves. Pray that God would grant us grace, knowing that we all are capable of falling captive to such evil. 

4.  Take precautions.  If there are things we can do to be wiser and to protect our children, then do them.  But we must not delude ourselves into thinking we can create a world immune to evil.

5. But do not fear.  I repeat, do not fear.  Psalm 23:4 says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will FEAR NO EVIL."  Our natural response to tragedy is what I call "the bunker mentality".  When the events of 911 unfolded, I wanted all my peeps home.  In the same room with me.  Probably forever.  And while it is good to draw comfort from those we love, we cannot and must not crawl into our bunker, pulling all our children with us, and try to create a perfectly safe environment.  It won't work.  And if we try that, we plant seeds of fear and insecurity in our children.  Seeds that will bloom into all sorts of unproductive weeds. Do not necessarily interpret this event as your direction to homeschool.  (Consider it for other reasons, but not from fear.)  Instead of recoiling from these tragedies, we must assure our children (and ourselves) that, while evil does exist, God is good.  And He loves us.  He will punish the evildoers and He will take care of us. He will not leave sin unpunished.  We cannot promise them that evil will never befall them but we can promise them that He will never leave us.  That He is the divine alchemist, who can take pain and sorrow and tragedy, and turn it into golden good.  And that one day, one glorious day, those that love Him will get to live in a perfect world.  Where no evil can come in. 

6. Increase the urgency to share the Gospel.  Events like yesterday cruelly remind us of the brevity of this life.  As well as the natural inclination of mankind's heart of sin.  Events like yesterday can be the red alert to the world, telling us all that we need a Savior.  That one day we will all give an account for what we have done.  And, apart from the imputed righteousness of Christ, we don't stand a chance of that day going well for us.  The people in Connecticut and Aurora and Virginia Tech and Columbine....and Watkinsville and Athens and wherever you live...need to know that there is a Savior.  A Savior that can save them from the consequences of their sinful condition.  In Eternity...and right now.  A Savior that can bind up their broken hearts and equip them to face this unbearable pain and to carry on.  A Savior that can even bring healing and beauty and joy. 

That's why we celebrate Christmas.  Because He came.  And lived.  And died.  And lived again.  And He's coming back.  One day.  One glorious day.