Note: I originally wrote this in December 2012 in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting. I am reposting it after the shooting in Las Vegas, now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history
Yesterday’s horrific school shooting in Connecticut which left 27 people dead, including 20 elementary school children, was an act of unspeakable evil. As God’s people, how should Christians respond to evil, whether it rises to the grotesque level of yesterday’s violence, or is the more garden-variety evil that we encounter in our families and our own hearts?
No quick blog post can do justice to the heart-wrenching anguish which so many are feeling today, nor can a cursory summary of biblical points fully represent the glorious God who reigns over the flood of human wickedness. So take the wholly insufficient thoughts below as seven biblical arrows pointing God’s people towards a holy, loving, Christ-exalting response to evil.
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS RESPOND TO EVIL?
1) Hate evil.
Romans 12:9- Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
There can be no equivocating among people who love Truth; evil, whether on a national scale or found within our hearts, is opposed to the reign of God and therefore must be absolutely, steadfastly opposed in all its manifestations by God’s people. God hates evil, and his wrath burns against evildoers. Therefore, in response to such wickedness, anger is an appropriate response.
2) Weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15- Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Another emotion that must surely rise from our hearts is grief- grief for those lost, and grief for those left. But for God’s people, our grief should be redeeming grief. Redeeming grief doesn’t stay behind closed doors; redeeming grief extends its arms, embraces the wounded, and weeps with those who weep. We don’t need to try to provide answers or solutions right away; sometimes what is most needed in the aftermath of evil is our tears.
3) Trust the absolute sovereignty of God over all evil.
Amos 3:6- Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?
Job 2:10- “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Deuteronomy 32:39- See now that I, I am He, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
Matthew 28:18- And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Even as we confirm our hatred of evil and weep with those broken by evil’s effects, as God’s people we take our stand and find our shelter, comfort, and hope in the knowledge that our God reigns in heaven over all the affairs of men, that He is never taken by surprise, and that He so oversees and orchestrates all events so that every act of evil will ultimately serve the glory of His name and the good of His people.
4) Never despair because of evil.
2 Corinthians 4:8- We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair.
Revelation 21:4- 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.
The school shooting in Connecticut is only the latest in a long line of violence this past year in America, not to mention the horrors across the world that make the worst American tragedies seem pale in comparison. It would be easy to give in to a defeatist, despairing attitude of unbelief and discouragement. We must wage war against that unbelief in our hearts. We can be perplexed and yet not driven to despair, because we know that our God reigns and will one day make all things new. Though the wrong seems so strong, God is the ruler yet, and all evil has an expiration date. So we don’t lose hope.
Matthew 6:13- And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Prayer is our lifeline to sovereignty. Prayer is the natural outpouring of a heart that hates evil and trusts God’s sovereignty, and so we pray as Jesus taught us, “Deliver us from evil.” Even when trust is mingled with confusion, we can still pray with the psalmist, “How long, O Lord?” And with aching, groaning, burdened hearts, we pray, “Come soon, Lord Jesus! Put to right all that evil has put wrong.”
6) Hold out the healing, hopeful grace of Christ to those broken by and despairing because of evil.
Romans 8:28- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.
Isaiah 61:1,3- He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted… to comfort all who mourn, and to provide for those who grieve in Zion.
The ultimate and only hope for those broken by evil’s effects is that they come to know Jesus Christ, who promises to work every evil for good for those who trust and love Him. The Father sent the Son to provide for all who grieve in Zion, and so if we want to be beneficiaries of His coming, we must be enrolled in Zion, counted among the people of God. All things work for those who love God, and for those who are called according to His purpose, even school shootings will serve their eternal good. So if we truly love the grieving, we must gently, patiently, and graciously point them to the suffering Sovereign who came to save all those who, in suffering, will hope in him.
7) Treasure Christ.
Psalm 73:26- My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Philippians 3:8- I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
Evil, pain, and loss remind us that the only sure and lasting hope in the universe is Jesus. One effect that God intends for suffering to have in the lives of His people is to wean us away from the counterfeit pleasures of this world and to make us lean on the only true and lasting joy, namely, Himself. And, just as all true joy increases when it is shared, God intends for our treasuring Him in the midst of trial to be a powerful witness to the world to the reality of our hope, and for others to join us in loving Jesus, our suffering Savior.