Yesterday morning, in our adult Bible class, we talked briefly about how to explain evil in relation to God. I suggested there were two extremes on either side of the question, both of which should be avoided. It is a strange and unwanted irony that our conversation connects to the great evil that happened in Texas yesterday.
We talked about how one error would be to say that God makes people sin. This is a kind of fatalism -- a denial of human choice. There are probably very few who stray into this error, but I know there are a few here or there.
The Bible is clear: God never causes anyone to sin (James 1:13-15).
We pastors in particular should be careful not to use the word "cause" in a vague way. God ordaining that sins happen doesn't mean God makes people sin. God forbid! The responsibility is entirely that of the perpetrator. God's ordination means that even sin fits, somehow, into His total plan. The ultimate example of God ordaining sin was Christ's crucifixion (see Acts 4:27-28).
But the other, reverse error would be to say that God had no relation to the crime at all. As if God just passively sits up there, just as shocked as all of us, or to say (worse yet), God was helpless to do anything to stop it. This explanation isn't an option, either.
Once we know that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, and eternal, the option of saying He couldn't do anything is gone.
Consider God's power -- God could have vaporised the weapons right out of the gunman's hands. God could have vaporised him. But God let it happen.
Do we know why God let this happen? No. Will we ever? Maybe not. Probably not, on this side of glory. But we do know other truths that matter.
We do know that God is the kind of Person who willingly sacrificed His own Son so that we could all be saved from eternal death. The Christians who died yesterday went immediately to Heaven, which entrance was purchased for them by Christ's horrible but redeeming death for them. That's the sort of God God is. He is not just some cosmic unfeeling Eyeball.
We also know that the Christians who died yesterday will be raised in glory one day, because of what Christ accomplished for them. Christ promised that. Because Christ rose, they will.
I also believe these Christians are martyrs for the faith, since the man who attacked them was, by reports, an outspoken atheist who vehemently called all who believe in God "stupid." Christ pronounced special blessing on those of our number who suffer for His name's sake (Matthew 5:10-12).
We also know that God is near to the broken-hearted, and will bend His powers to help, comfort, and strengthen those who were left behind to go on living with meaning.
We also know that the villain who did this did not "get away with it", and is now not getting away with anything. This is pure justice. There is a place where the fire never goes out and the worm dieth not. Mark 9:43-44.
Not only that, Christ pledged that this villain's evil work will one day be 100% reversed and undone forever. If it's possible to laugh at the futility of the bad guys, then we will all laugh on that day. These people, with us, will rise and return in victory, because of what Christ did 2,000 years ago on Easter morning.
The apostle Paul once said that, for the Christian, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). The way these people left is an atrocity. But you know? None of those people want to come back here, at least not until Christ personally leads the way.
So we will pray for the living, and ask God to bring good out of this evil.