How could such an evil thing happen?
That’s a question a lot of people are asking after the tragic shooting deaths in Newtown, Connecticut. A young man, twenty years of age, walked into a school and killed not only adults, but young children as well. Why did he do such a thing? Is there anything we could have done as a society to stop it? Why did God allow this to happen?
In fact, there are people who say that actions like these demonstrate that there is no god. If there were a god, they reason, and if he were loving and powerful, there is no way that he would allow such terrible things to occur.
How should we respond?
Jesus actually addresses this issue in the Gospel according to Luke:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Luke 13:1-5 NIV
You can see reflected in the words of Jesus an attitude that at least some of the people in the culture of that day held. They assumed that God was punishing people who suffered. If a tragic accident occurred, then God was calling those who suffered to account for something they had done. If there was a massacre, then God was bringing punishment on those who had sinned.
Jesus, however, says something very different. He clearly states that those who suffered in an accident and those who died because of an evil act were not worse sinners than others. Instead, he calls his listeners to repent. But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Jesus is teaching us how to respond when disaster strikes. God is not punishing people for their sins when this occurs, for Jesus was punished in the place of sinful man. Rather, God is calling on us to repent, to have a change of heart and mind.
You see, we are quick to blame God when tragedy strikes, to question His love for us. But God isn’t the one who brings tragedy and suffering—we are. The Bible teaches us that sin, death, and suffering entered the world when Adam and Eve turned away from God, as recorded in Genesis chapter three. Note what the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament book of Romans:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned
Romans 5:12 NIV
Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and ever since then our sin continues to cause tremendous sorrow and pain. Even the creation suffers because of us. In Romans 8:21 it says that creation is in bondage to decay! Animals and people die because of the tragedy of our sin!
The reason that people sometimes walk into schools and start shooting is that sin has corrupted all of creation. Our minds, our consciences, our very souls are damaged, broken, and twisted. This is why there are serial killers and tyrants who lead nations into war to exterminate other people groups. This is why there is rape and incest. This is why there are nuclear weapons and torture and gang violence.
A person with a Biblical worldview knows exactly why these things happen. It is because our sin has stained and corrupted all of creation. This is why Jesus calls on us to repent. He calls on us to admit our failures, to recognize our accountability, and to turn to him in faith and hope.
So as we mourn with those who lost loved ones in Connecticut, we do so with hearts heavy not just with grief, but with the recognition of our responsibility. But we also cling to Jesus in faith, the One who endured a suffering and death that appeared meaningless, that appeared to be a completely useless tragedy. But His death and resurrection are our hope.
Jesus carried the punishment for sin that we deserved. Jesus suffered separation from His Heavenly Father so that we will not have to. And someday, Jesus will recreate all things and make them new. A new heaven and a new earth will be formed where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. The curse of sin will be gone forever, and every tear will be wiped away.
That is our hope, and it is made to be shared with the people you know. Perhaps one of your neighbors needs to hear it today.