This past week our nation was shocked by the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As pictures of the victims and stories of the shooting make their way through the news cycle, I’m hit again and again by waves of shock and grief and outrage and sadness. It’s almost too much to take in. In particular, this shooting is outrageous because the majority of the victims were 6-7 year-old’s. I’ve been thinking about this shooting a lot, partly because it’s difficult not to, and partly because I taught at church this past Sunday and felt compelled to address the shooting. Below are some of my reflections as I’ve thought, prayed, and grieved over this tragedy.
- This tragedy makes me want to lock my kids up, home school them through college, and completely shield them from the ugliness of this dark world. But the miracle of Christmas is that God didn’t do that to His Son. God sent His Son to be born in this dark and desperate world, knowing all the while that a horrific death awaited Him–all because He loved us! “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
- God designed us to be shocked, disgusted, and horrorstruck at the idea of harm coming to innocent children for a reason. The reason is so that we could understand a bit of the depth of sacrifice and love that God demonstrated when He sent His one and only innocent Son into this world to die for our sins. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). That disgust and horror you feel towards evil being done to innocent children is a glimpse of the horror and disgust that the Father endured as His own innocent Son was brutally tortured and killed because of my sins.
- There’s a lot of blame being passed around. From mental health to gun control to kicking God out of public schools, this shooting is being politicized from all sides. People are looking for an issue to get behind so that they can prevent further instances of this kind of evil. But this overlooks the biblical notion that we live in fallen, depraved, and wicked world. Sin is real, and it will make it’s presence known. Not long after Jesus’ birth, a wicked man named Herod had all the male babies in the vicinity of Bethlehem, 2-years-old and under, murdered in an attempt to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:16-18). Evil is not new. But sin is inconvenient to blame, because there’s only one answer to evil.
- The answer to evil lies in the gospel. Only as people come to know the grace, truth, and love of Jesus Christ, and are transformed by it, will our nation become better. I think of the famous quote by Alexis de Tocqueville (author of Democracy in America): “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there. I sought in the fertile fields and boundless forest—in her rich mines and vast world commerce—and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good—and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
- A lot of people will ask why God let this happen. That is a question we will probably never have the answer to this side of eternity. We can give reasons why God allows evil in general: sometimes because it allows for greater goods like the spread of the knowledge of Himself, the salvation of lost people, or the existence of human freedom. But although we can give these possible reasons why God allows evil in general, God does not tell us why he allows specific instances of evil to occur. Instead, He asks us to trust that He knows best. We do know that God’s purposes are not restricted to this life, but spill over beyond the grave into eternal life. God’s knowledge is immeasurably better than our small and limited outlook. We also know that the Bible seems to indicate that when a child dies before they have the capacity to knowingly reject Christ, God in His mercy saves them and they enter God’s Presence immediately upon the death of their physical bodies. And this is a far better situation than they were in before (see 2 Samuel 12:21-23; Matthew 19:14; Philippians 1:23).
- One day, Jesus will return and make all the wrongs right. He’ll completely and permanently eradicate sin and create perfect peace forever. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Events like this stir us to long for that day like we ought to. Come Lord Jesus, come!