Last week was not a good week for America in regards to violence and evil. We were saddened by the shooting at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas on Saturday where 22 people lost their lives and over two dozen were severally injured. Then we woke up to more sad news on Sunday morning when we learned that nine people lost their lives in Dayton, Ohio in another shooting. (Twelve were killed on May 31st in Virginia Beach.) We mourn with the families, friends, communities, and the nation when such tragedies occur. It is even more disheartening with all the finger-pointing and politicizing of these evil events. From a Christian perspective, we know that the heart of man is wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and such evil is to be expected in this fallen world in which we live.
I was reminded of an article written by Russell Moore (President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the SBC) in October of 2017 after the mass shooting in Las Vegas where 59 people were killed and hundreds were wounded. Moore’s article, “Where is God in a Mass Shooting,” is very helpful and so I would like to share some of his insights (copied below).
We live in a fallen world, where awful, incomprehensible things happen. When an obvious and egregious injustice such as this one is done, we should stand where God does and see this as real evil, not as an illusion of evil. This means that our response to such should not be some sort of Stoic resignation but instead a lament with those around us who are hurting.
Christians sometimes suppose that our non-Christian friends and neighbors want to hear a detailed explanation, to justify God in light of such horror. The Bible doesn’t give us easy answers. The Word of God instead speaks of the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess. 2:7). When tragedy fell upon Job, an ancient follower of God, and asked why such happened to him, God did not fully answer him. God instead spoke of his own power and his own presence. That’s exactly what we should do.
We do not know why God does not intervene and stop some tragedies when he does stop others. What we do know, though, is that God stands against evil and violence. We know that God is present for those who are hurting. And we know that God will ultimately call all evil to a halt, in the ushering in of his kingdom. We know that God is, in the words of the hymn, both “merciful and mighty.”
When my wife and I were going through a difficult time, years ago, a friend stopped by, a respected theologian who spoke often and well of God’s sovereign providence. I expected him to speak to us of how God was working in this tragedy we were facing. He didn’t. He cried with us. He sat with us. He prayed with us. And as he left, he turned and said, “Russell, I don’t know why God permitted this to happen to you, but I know this: Jesus loves you, and Jesus is alive and present right now in your life.” I’ve never forgotten those words.
Our neighbors do not need us to provide easy answers to what is, this side of the eschaton, unexplainable. What they need, though, is a reminder for us that life is not the meaningless chaos it seems to be. There is a loving Presence at work in the universe. They need for us to weep and hurt with them, as Jesus did at the grave of his friend. In short, they need us to be a people of the cross, a people whose God is not distant and blank but a God who instead loved the world enough to send his Son to bear in his own body the full measure of the curse of evil. In the cross, we see evil and horror. We also see that God is there. And in the empty tomb, we see that death does not get the last word.
So, we do not have all the answers to evil but we know the One (Jesus Christ) who will soon eradicate all evil and establish His righteous kingdom. Until His return, people need the Lord. Let us join in prayer for those impacted by these tragedies in El Paso and Dayton and let us faithfully shine the light of Christ is the midst of a world of great darkness. Bro. Harold