News of the Newtown shooting felt like a kick in the stomach. My heart immediately went out to the parents, community and surviving children. I was amazed at the bravery and selflessness of the school staff.
After a time, however, I became overwhelmed by the spectacle of an entire nation which cannot seem to comprehend how such a thing could happen. I found myself very sad for multitudes of Americans so thoroughly alienated and estranged from biblical faith that they cannot fathom the dark side of human nature, and consequently remain bereft of any meaningful hope.
Jesus was once asked about the brutal murder of an entire group of worshipers.
Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:2-3
Read Jesus’ remark carefully. He made three points:
- People who suffer horrific, senseless violence do not especially deserve it. The unjust nature of suffering is one of the sadder results of human sin.
- We live under God’s suspended curse in response to human sin (Genesis 3:17-18). All of us are vulnerable to the many miseries native to being alienated from our Creator. One day, God’s passive alienation will become active judgment in which all of us deserve to perish.
- We are presently in an era of precious grace, in which repentance and faith can neutralize future judgment, and heal present alienation.
Jesus’ words seem harsh to modern ears. We are so determined to justify our lifestyles that we cling to the secular dogma that humans are fundamentally good and children are born an innocent blank slate. Therefore, the only possible conclusions from Newtown are:
1) God is not good – either incompetent or evil, or 2) there is no God.
Jesus’ words are hard. They cut deep. But they remain the only source of hope the world has ever known. Because if wickedness is God’s fault, we are doomed. And if there is no God, evil is virtually inconsequential because life itself is no more than a brief flower. But if evil is our fault, the result of a bent nature every one of us is born with, then there is room for hope – hope that God exists, and he is good. If he is very good, he could help us in our distress.
Jesus claimed that God is more good than we imagine. It is only our pride that blinds us to him and condemns us to spiritual cluelessness. God is so good that he will decisively condemn wickedness, while saving morally compromised people (like me) who seek redemption.
I weep that none of this makes any sense in a nation which has so largely forgotten the biblical message. The outpouring of national sympathy toward Newtown is nothing short of inspiring. But in the end, we need more than hugs, tweets and random acts of kindness. We need hope.