Sandy Hook Memorial
Although I wrote this blog post after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, similar truths apply with regard to any mass murder. Unfortunately, this won’t be the last such incident. All humans are born in a state of sin, and the world itself is sinful.
This won’t a typical, Christian response to tragedy, but it will be a fully biblical response. I didn’t create this blog to repeat the same content that you always hear from other Christians. For example, these were some typical responses to the Sandy Hook shootings:
- Taking a position either for or against gun control
- Comparing this event to the even more horrific slaughter of babies through abortion
- Reminding us that Herod slaughtered babies in an attempt to kill the baby Jesus
- Defending God by explaining that He is good and just.
- Explaining that all people are sinners.All these things are true, but not all hit the mark. These responses politicized the tragedy; marked it as an event that somehow fit into the Advent season; make it appear that we need to defend God after every tragic event; or conclude that the world is evil and offer no hope. Often, it looks as if Christians use tragic events merely as an opportunity to change the topic and launch into a lengthy Bible study. I’ll stay on topic, but the answers are found in the Bible.
The First Murder
If you’re familiar with my writings, you’ll know that Genesis is my favorite book of the Bible. One reason for this is because it breaks ground by introducing ideas, events, and other things for the first time. Thus, it’s important that we all understand what Genesis tells us about murder.
The first recorded murder, which we find in Genesis 4:1-16, presents an unambiguous picture. In fact, nowhere in the Bible do we read anything good about the murderer, or anything bad about the victim. Cain hated Abel out of envy (1 Jn. 3:12). He thought the Lord had shown favor to the wrong person. The Holy Spirit sought to reason with Cain, but Cain rejected the voice of God.
Cain Leads Abel to Death James Tissot ( Wikimedia)
Abel was the first martyr. His tragic fate foreshadowed that of Jesus, whose very life was a perfect offering to His heavenly Father. Wicked men saw that Jesus was specially blessed. They envied Him for it, and killed Him. Though they deliberately committed this evil act, God used it for the good of all who would trust in Christ for salvation.
From a moral standpoint, the Bible doesn’t leave many open questions about murders such as those that occurred at Sandy Hook. The victims, especially the children, were entirely innocent. The murderer can only have had evil motives. He killed the children, not despite the fact that they were innocent, but for that very reason. God, in his infinite love and justice, will deal appropriately with each of the deceased.
Jesus attributed this and all other murders to Satan, whom He called,“a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). In most cases, the murder victims aren’t as innocent as elementary school children. Still, Satan and his demons incite murder because they hate whatever is pure, honest, and innocent in human beings. God created all humans in His image, and they hate that image. In particular, Satan wants to kill Christians, and anyone who could eventually decide to become a Christian.
How to Respond to Evil
The only place where this begins to get complicated is with us, the living. We naturally wonder whether and how we fit into this horrendous picture. Can there be a sensible response to killings that made no sense from a human perspective?
First, I agree with everyone who senses that we can’t fully extricate ourselves from the picture. Just as Adam and Eve wouldn’t have been justified in supposing that they bore no connection with the murder of Abel, neither can we disassociate ourselves entirely from a tragedy such as the mass murder at Sandy Hook. Each of us should take notice and respond when something like this hits our community or nation.
You may wonder what Adam and Eve had to do with the murder of their beloved son, Abel. By partaking of the forbidden fruit, they opened a veritable Pandora’s Box. The consequences were entirely out of proportion to what they might have thought was a “little” sin.
We make similar choices. When we don’t intentionally choose to love people, we choose instead to let sin increase in the world. Two types of consequences can cause a lesser sin to result in greater evils:
- The “domino” effect occurs when one sin leads to many more sins. This describes Adam and Eve’s sin, or the sins that parents may pass on to children by example.
- The “last straw” effect occurs when a minor offense leads another person to commit a much worse sin. The provocation could be as slight as rudeness or a minor outburst of anger. Someone may overreact because they have mental problems; have already gone through a lifetime of abuse; or are just having a rotten day, week, or month.
I’m not implying that there’s ever a justifiable excuse for the murder of innocent people. Then again, no sin is excusable in the eyes of our holy God. The point is that if we want other people to do good rather than evil, we must start by learning to manage our own behavior. We certainly can’t control other people.
Most people prefer to respond in some way other than through unconditional love. Nearly always, our first choice is to shift the responsibility onto others. For example, we would love it if law enforcement officers could identify and stop mass murderers before they go on killing sprees. This method will never be very effective, even if massive, invasive surveillance were conducted for this purpose. Another solution that’s been offered is to employ a veritable army of psychologists to counsel people with mental problems. Even if counseling were 100 percent effective, which it isn’t, we don’t have the money for it.
Many Americans want to take responsibility for stopping murderers by arming themselves. No particular person is likely to be in the right place, at the right time, responding in the right way.
Some people argue that the more law-abiding citizens carry weapons, the more murders can be prevented. While this may be true, love is a much more powerful force than concealed weapons. Even though carrying a weapon appears to be an aggressive response, it’s not. There’s hardly anything more passive than watching and waiting to respond. Love is an aggressive response because we can choose to be kind and patient with people every day. That will have an effect because God designed each of us in such a way that we respond to love.
Maybe someone won’t seem to appreciate our kindness because they’re so empty inside that they’re not yet in a position to give. That’s to be expected. A few people may repay good with evil. We should forgive them since Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). Sometimes we do good simply by overlooking an offense instead of escalating a situation. Whatever the case, the Bible assures us that we can overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).
Reverse the Curse
Again, Genesis 4 shows that the murder of innocents was a consequence of the Fall. Adam and Eve opened a “Pandora’s box,” but we can reverse that curse through the power of Christ. I emphasized “we” as the subject because Christ reverses the curse through us. What a privilege this is for believers!
Herod killed the baby boys in Bethlehem well before Jesus gave His life and rose from the dead. Now, anyone in the world can repent of their sins and receive the Holy Spirit. Repentance, for anyone who doesn’t know, means experiencing a change of heart and behavior by our choice and God’s enabling power.
Billions of people throughout the world claim to be Christians, including nearly 250 million people in the United States alone. I’m not suggesting that every one of them is a Christian. Nonetheless, what unbelievers want and deserve to know is, “Does faith in Christ make a difference?” Collectively, we’re not making a difference that can be considered worthy of the name of Christ.
We shouldn’t expect politicians to prevent mass murders by spending our tax dollars in an ingenious way—as if “politicians” and “ingenious” go together. Neither should we stop at feeling sorry for the families of the victims. We cannot lessen their grief, but we can spread God’s love and endure with patience and forbearance the trials and sorrows that come our way. Only by dying to ourselves in this manner can we hope to see the life of Christ break forth in this world through us.
Satan has no right to rule and wreak havoc in this world. Christ reigns invisibly, in and through Christians. By spreading Christ’s love in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can make this a world in which mass murders are less common, and where God’s will is more frequently done here on earth, as it is in heaven.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to respond to evil and violence, I curated some articles on my Scoop-it! Nonviolence page.
What do you think? Please post any comments or questions below.