Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre - Why Lord?

Is the Virginia Tech Massacre behind us? The media has finally left the campus, not voluntarily, but by request, but they finally have stopped drumming up the emotional turmoil and the frenzied hype on campus. The fleeting symbolism of the balloons was loosed to fly up and away from the campus. Classes have resumed and the campus is moving forward in academic endeavor.

Yet even for those who are far away, questions remain. The biggest question continues in the hearts and minds of many: WHY? This question takes many forms but ultimately it seems to end in this question, “Why Lord?”

When this question is sifted a little further so that the foreign particles are left behind so that the finer matter of the question settles into a heap the more pure form of the question becomes manifested as: “Why does God allow evil things to happen?” or “Why does God allow evil?”

This is a question that is asked in many other circumstances besides this tragic event, but it has certainly been asked by many, many people again now. I’ve heard it on the radio. I’ve read it in the newspaper. I’ve heard it from people who profess to believe in God and from those who profess to be agnostic or atheistic.

The fact that people ask this question is encouraging. However, the fact that no one ever seems to stand up with the answer is frustrating. Even those who stand up to address the question, even from among theologians, ultimately the only answer that is given is that the answer cannot be known.

I believe that the answer has been given to us by the One of whom we ask the question. I believe that the Lord God has given the answer.

Would you like to hear it?

If so, read on and bear with me, for a bit of preparatory groundwork needs to be laid in conjunction with the answer.

First, let’s restate the question: “Why does God allow or permit evil?”

Next, what is evil? Is it the generic and nondescript definition that people usually use as their operative definition? According to this definition evil is whatever the person judges to be evil. By this account evil is whatever a person determines is disagreeable with the felt needs and desires of the person. Therefore one person rejoices while another weeps, one calling a blessing what another counts as a curse.

Before an answer can be given as to why God allows evil, a better definition of evil is needed. The only suitable answer is that evil is anything that opposes the good and gracious will of God. If this answer is accepted as fact, the question is narrowed drastically.

So then, with this more accurate definition we can ask more precisely, “Why does God permit actions that go against His good and gracious will?”

Now the question becomes narrowed even further. After all, actions do not just happen. Actions are caused by something or someone. In reality, actions are only perceived as being caused by something, for all actions are the result of what someone does.

Therefore, the evil actions that God permits are performed by someone.

The first evil action was performed by Satan. In fact, he committed the first mass murder, by deceiving and leading a third of the angels of heaven into rebellion against the Lord. (Rev. 12:4) The Lord Jesus declared that the devil is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. (John 8:44) This was the mass murder that typified all mass murders, for the murderer included himself in the mass murder. (All murderers do ultimately include themselves in the murder.)

The second evil action was also a mass murder, for in listening to the devil and turning from faith to doubt which led Adam to disobey God, Adam murdered himself and the entire human race. Any mass murder since Adam’s murder is just a pale reflection of what has already been perpetrated by Adam.

The point of this little history lesson is to demonstrate who the perpetrators of evil are. Satan and his legion of demons and the entire human race, this is the list of doers of evil. As the Lord Jesus declared, there is only one who is good, and that is God. (Matthew 19:17)

If you have been paying close attention, you have already perceived the first part of the answer as to why God permits evil. In order to eliminate evil God must eliminate all evil doers. This means that He would have to wipe out the entire human race. It is not God’s will to wipe out the entire human race. His will is to save mankind from evil. Therefore, as St. Peter so wonderfully proclaims, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)

The Lord will most assuredly eliminate all evil and all evil-doers, even as He has promised. But for the sake of those who will be saved from perishing into everlasting damnation, God is being patient.

This brings us to the next point. The first point is that God does not simply eliminate evil doers because we are all evil doers according to the sinful nature that we have inherited from Adam. Not even one of us lives without doing evil. However, by God’s grace, some of us hear and believe the promise of salvation in Christ Jesus, the Seed of the woman who crushed the serpent’s head and defeated sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Many of our ancestors refused to hear and believe this promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. They continued in their evil-doing without receiving God’s grace and forgiveness. They remained counted as evil-doers until their last breath.

Yet God could not simply wipe them out without simultaneously wiping out their descendants, US. If God had wiped out our evil ancestors, we would not have been born to hear and believe the Gospel. God was not willing to do away with future generations of believers. Even in the giving of the Law this is stated:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

To those who love God, trusting in Him and His Gospel, the promise is an unbroken line of generations who live in His grace, mercy, and peace. But to those who hate God, despising His grace, the promise is that the line of generations does break after a few generations. Thus we behold that the promise stands even when people choose the curse for themselves. God’s will is that people be saved, and if He has to permit the vessels of dishonor to be born and to perform works of dishonor so that the future vessels of honor should also be born to live by grace, then God is willing to demonstrate longsuffering to us and for us. (Romans 9:22-23)

Now for the third and most important portion of the answer as to why God permits the evil people in the world and their actions.
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. (Acts 2:22-24)

Here we observe the most amazing answer of all. Evil had to be undone through injustice. The only perfectly obedient man, God in the flesh, had to be falsely accused of all the evil of all other human beings and put to death in their place.

Who would do such a thing? Only an unbeliever, only a person who denied his own unrighteousness could perform such a wicked and evil act as to crucify Jesus. In order to save mankind from evil, God had to allow evil to continue in the world. Evil had to continue in order that the final murder would ensue. God Himself had to be murdered in the place of the murderers of the world. In the person of Jesus Christ, God took every last bit of the world’s evil into His own body and died an evil death at the hands of evil men. Finally evil was defeated, once and for all.

So we observe what St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:18-20:

But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Truly, if we want to hear the answer to the questions that we ask of God, we need to heed the source where all His promises are YES and AMEN, in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If we will let this be the answer to our questions, we will not turn away saying that the answer cannot be known. Jesus is the answer.

Do you hear God’s answer? Do you believe it?

If so, then one other question can now be answered. How can people who have endured such a terrible thing as the Virginia Tech Massacre forgive and continue onward in love rather than being consumed by fear, anger, and hate?

St. Paul answers this in Colossians 3:1-4:

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

St. Paul was living proof of how powerful this is. He witnessed it first hand in the witness and death of St. Stephen. Later, St. Paul came to know its meaning in his own life.
But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:55-60)

Again we observe God’s answer both to why He allows evil and how we can forgive and live in love. Are you willing to hear it and believe it? If so, you can stop looking for an answer and live in the assurance of God’s peace, no matter what evils you may face in your life.

God’s peace to you in Christ Jesus!

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