19 May 2014


[NOTE: This was found in my Drafts folder from last August.  I'm publishing it now but it refers to the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School)

I've been thinking a lot since last Friday's terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I have also been reading about great acts of heroism and bravery shown by teachers and staff at the school, whereby dozens of children were saved by teachers willing to put themselves in between their precious students and a killer.  As a Christian, it's difficult to wrestle with the questions that inevitably come in the aftermath of tragedy, especially this kind of tragedy, when innocent, defenseless children were cornered and murdered in such a frightening way.  Along with millions of others, I pray for the families of the victims.

With the questions comes finger pointing and politicking.  It's complicated as a Christian to balance practical matters (protecting your family from home invaders, for example) with the teachings of Scripture ("love your enemies" and "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."*).  It's tragedies like this that make anyone revisit the difficult questions that have haunted countless Christians through the ages.

I am disturbed when people try to offer up simplistic (and often unintentionally hurtful) answers like, "God just wanted those precious children in Heaven sooner than we thought" or "there's a reason for everything."  Sometimes, in this world God created, people make terrible choices and the rest of humanity suffers the consequences.  God didn't cause Sandy Hook just so he could have those children in Heaven; that's a disgusting thought (and theologically stupid: God is omnipresent - those children are already in his presence on earth).

What I have to remember in moments like this is that God has the final word on history.  Scripture is clear that God will punish those who disobey him and those who harm children.  Criticizing God for not "doing something" about Sandy Hook is like criticizing J.K. Rowling for not resolving the Harry Potter series in The Prisoner of Azkaban.  It's not over yet, and God doesn't forget anything.  We shouldn't attach conditions on our belief in or love for God that say "God must resolve every tension, every mystery, every tragedy, immediately, visibly, and obviously before I will believe in/love Him."  Faith waits in frustrated assurance that God will not forget and will deal justly with all.**

* = I did not put "you shall not kill" in this example because that's not a proper translation of Exodus 20:13.  If the commandment was meant to prevent all killing, then God probably shouldn't have commanded the Israelites to kill, as he did on several occasions (Joshua 10:40, for example).  This commandment is against murder, premeditated killing of another human.

** = the truth is, we don't really want God to deal justly with all, at least not me, because that means we all go to Hell.  Thank God that through Jesus, he treats me the opposite of what I deserve!  Thank God his love is not fair!

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