Today, we were shocked with the news that a troubled twenty-year-old boy shot his mom in the head at their home and then went to the elementary school where she used to teach and killed kindergarteners trapped in two classrooms. Twenty kids and eight adults lost their lives. The gunman is dead. Suicide.
Selah . . .
Like many of you, I don’t know how to process this. I don’t think it is possible to process this. While the parents and other school children need counseling to help them deal with this tragedy, I think just about everyone in the country (maybe the world) needs counseling. Many pastors right now are adjusting their Sunday sermons, knowing that their congregation is going to be looking for answers from God. They want to know why. They want to know how God could allow such a thing. As the pastor digs deep, his emotions betray him as he would rather be sitting in the congregation while another pastor explains to him the whys and the hows.
The explanations around the world are going to be plenty as emotions run high. Already, the President has made a statement implying that gun control will be placed back on the table. I had lunch with someone who said that the moral decay of our country is at fault. Another said it was the breakdown of the family.
What is the explanation? Is it guns? Do we need to disarm the country? Is it TV shows? Is it movies? Is it public education? Is it divorce? Is it lack of discipline? Is it homosexual families? Is it video games? Is it pornography? Is it the Internet? What is the explanation for all these shooting tragedies? The answer is both more simple and more terrifying than we think. The answer is this: evil. Evil is the reality about which we often forget. Evil. . . People are evil. We are all evil. We don’t need any external influence to explain these tragedies. We need theological revelation. Listen to what Christ says:
Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
Notice, this is the search for explanation as to why good people do bad things. But people do bad things due to the fact that we are not really good. It is not what goes into a man that causes him to act evilly, it is ultimately a problem of nature. Furthermore, notice the problem is nothing new to our age. Long before guns, movies, video games, and the Internet, the question as to the source of evil has been on the table. It is out of our heart that murder originates. The world is fallen, broken, and depraved. The world is evil.
So, what is the answer? Obama said in his speech, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” How do we do this? What “meaningful action” will remove evil from the earth? Truthfully, there is no adequate human answer. Evil will exist until the restoration of all things in Christ. Evil will not be eradicated until Jesus comes in judgement. The only question I have is, “Why does He tarry?” I don’t know. I wish I knew, but I don’t.
However, I am compelled to remind every one of you of something: evil is not worse today than it was at any other time in history. On April 19, 1995, in my hometown (Oklahoma City), the Murrah Building was bombed. I actually felt the blast that killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6. Yet I do think today’s tragedy in Connecticut may be even worse. The intentionality involved baffles me. But evil is not greater today than it was then. It is not greater today than it was one hundred or one thousand years ago. What makes it seem like the world is a worse place than before is the availability of information. Before the internet, before Twitter and Facebook, before twenty-four-hour world news (that lives or dies by the existence of tragedy), we would not have known about tragic happenings such as these outside of our communities. We would not have known about the children who died today. However, in our age, we are expected to shoulder the pains of twenty sets of parents who just lost their five-year-old boy or girl. And you know what? We were not meant to. God did not create us with enough emotional stamina to bear this much evil. Let me try to add to the spirit of Christ’s words in Matthew 6:
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow (i.e., troubles outside your immediate context), for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day (i.e., the troubles in your own family and community) is its own evil.
Christ knows better than anyone what we can bear. And he says we cannot bear that much. I cannot bear the evil that happened in Connecticut. I am sorry. I don’t ignore it, I just have sufficient evils in my own life and family.
The evil proceeding from the human heart will not cease in its intensity until He comes again. That is why the evil of the cross was allowed: to begin the restoration process. One day, we will be free from these anxieties. One day we will be free from getting calls from people who say, “Are you watching the news?” as fear makes our hearts drop. One day, we will no longer be expected to prepare sermons which we ourselves need to hear. No longer will we be crying out to God, “Why?” And no longer will we be expected to bear the anxieties, evils, and depressions of parents whom we have never met. I look forward to that day.
Is this answer sufficient to salve the pain we all feel? No. No answers ever will be.