Sandy Hook Questions
At last weekend’s services we prayed for the parents and responders to the shootings at Sandy Hook, and I addressed the tragedy during the message. (You can hear it on our website if you missed it.) This shooting is a vivid expression of evil, but Jesus’ power is greater than all other powers.
This tragedy causes us to ask many deep questions that we couldn’t address in one service. So, I’d like to share some thoughts with you about some of those questions.
Where was God?
He was there in the room with those children and teachers.
At Christmas we marvel again at “God with us”; that in Jesus God entered our world in all of its joy and pain. That means he was in Sandy Hook school the day of the shooting and he is there today.
The book of Acts records that when Stephen was being killed for his faith, he looked up and saw the Lord Jesus in heaven. The Lord helped Stephen transition from this life to the next not in terror but in wonder.
I believe that God met those children (and adults) in their final moments. I believe he and his angels escorted those children into his presence, comforting them as He did so.
Jesus said that God cares deeply for children, and I believe he did not leave them alone in those tragic moments, just as the teachers did not.
How could this be God’s plan?
It wasn’t. It was sin.
Not everything that happens on earth is the will of God. (By definition sin is an act against God’s will). That is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That prayer would make no sense if everything that happened was already the will of God.
This doesn’t mean God was surprised by this; He knows everything before it occurs.
Romans 8:28 still applies; God can take even this evil and cause good to come from it. That is not to say that everything happens for the best; it does mean God’s work in our lives is not defeated by evil.
He didn’t cause this tragedy, but it is true he didn’t prevent it.
Why didn’t God stop this?
Consider a world where God steps in to stop all sin. Since we all sin regularly, what would life look like on this planet? If God stopped only certain sins, which should he stop and which actions would he permit?
We are created in the image of God, which includes having free will. We don’t move through life like robots in a script. He will allow us to receive or reject him and his ways. He will also let us experience the results of both our actions and those of people around us.
God allowed Adam and Eve to sin. He didn’t step in to prevent the sin that caused the entire human race to be chained to death and sin. But he did intervene in Jesus to make a way of redemption.
God knows the pain of those parents in Sandy Hook. He allowed his own Son to be killed by unjust and cruel people. And yet Jesus’ death made the way for redemption and life forever, a life those children in Sandy Hook now know fully.
What is our world coming to?
This shooting highlights the reality that we live in a broken world. As God’s people, we are his instruments to push back the darkness. As we love a broken world, we can see His light penetrate the darkness.
Your efforts for Christ make a difference. Each person we reach with the gospel, each need we meet, will help God’s kingdom to come. Small things done with great love will change the world.
We need not live in fear; we serve the risen King of the universe. Hug your children, and if they ask questions about this, assure them that there are many adults keeping them safe. And pray not only that they will be safe, but that they will fulfill God’s purposes for their lives. As we daily say “yes” to the prompts of the Spirit there will be less brokenness and more of God’s will done here on earth.
I know these few paragraphs cannot fully address all the complexities of this tragedy. I’m praying for you that God will speak to you exactly where you need to hear from him. May his peace embrace you this holy season.
Steve Cordle is the founding and lead pastor of Crossroads Church, a small group-based congregation with five locations in the Pittsburgh metro area. He also leads a18movement, a non-profit dedicated catalyzing church plants globally. Steve is the author of three books: A Jesus-Shaped Life, Hear it, See it, Risk it, and The Church in Many Houses. He coaches pastors and church planters in the United States and Western Europe. He enjoys running, playing classical piano, and all Pittsburgh sports. Steve is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary (M. Div) and United Theological Seminary (D. Min). Steve and his wife, Linda, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-love, and three grandchildren.
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