We are once again confronted with senseless violence thrust upon us by an individual who may or may not have been in full control of his mental faculties. Regardless of his mental state the act that he perpetrated was undeniably evil. This leads followers of Christ to ponder a couple of fundamental questions. First, why does such evil exist or further, why does God allow such evil things to take place? For me this is the easier of the two questions to answer. Evil exists because Man makes evil choices. Regardless on where you come down on the depravity of man (I fall in the total – meaning, outside of the grace of God in Christ, we are all sinners by nature and by choice) the bottom line is that people can make evil choices.
It is interesting to me that many of the same people who rail against a God who would “allow” such things are the same people who are vehemently opposed to a God who would “force” them to accept a prescribed faith belief system. Yes, there is profound evil in the world. Yes, God in His sovereignty allows evil actions to take place out of the evil choices of individuals. However, I have found there is also profound good in the world as well.
This leads me to my second question. How can we, as followers of Christ, respond to horrific acts of evil like the shooting in Sunderland Springs, Texas, on November 5th, the man who ran over pedestrians in New York on October 31st, or the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on October 1st? This is where I have seen some of the profound goodness in the world.
Before I get to that, let me clearly state, that I firmly believe that we have both the right and obligation to provide a safe place for our congregation to worship, fellowship and serve. For me that includes, as a last resort, actively physically engaging someone who would do harm with a weapon, a firearm or IED. Just as the people of Israel were led by Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 4:15-23) to have half-working and half-watching, both armed by the way, we should have contingency plans in place for whatever evil acts might be foisted upon us.
That being said, let me get back to the profound good I have seen in the response to heinous acts of terror. The American people have risen to meet the needs of those impacted by these acts. Not just Christians, but those from all walks of faith. In the Christian community, prayers, love and tangible acts of support have immediately followed these kinds of incidents.
In addition, so many times, I have seen followers of Christ who have been directly and devastatingly impacted by an act of violence or terror, offer love and forgiveness in return. That is the profound good: That we are not drawn into the very evil that is thrust upon us. We, in the grace of God, return good for evil, love for hate. (Matthew 5:43-48)
I cannot control what people are planning in darkness. I cannot keep evil from ever entering my church or my house. I can choose not to allow that evil to control me! I choose to live in the grace and love of Christ. I will act to protect my family and the flock that God has entrusted to me if I am ever forced to do so. I hope that as we see acts of violence and terror like those in Sunderland Springs, New York and Las Vegas, these would only serve to bring us together and motivate us to greater acts of kindness toward one another.