Wednesday evening in Charleston, SC a shooting at a church uncovered yet another blight of evil in our nation. There are no greater descriptives available. It was evil. What increases the malice are the victims and location at which the shooting occurred.
A church. A historic black church. A midweek bible class. Sounds too close for comfort. Our prayers are for God to comfort the bereaved, to bring beauty from these ashes and joy from this pain.
There is no shirking the issue. Racism is profoundly alive in our nation. South Carolina itself is the cradle of the confederacy.
What do we do? How do we process what we have witnessed?
First, I urge upon us an honest worldview. Wednesday’s events are a clear illustration of the deep depravity sin has wrecked on humanity. At the foundation, we can conclude that sin has done a job on us. No one deserves this, and yet it seems like none of us can escape it. Schools, malls, grocery stores, neighborhood streets and churches – these are the places where we live life.
The next question is where is God in all of this? How do we process the character of God in the face of clear and present evil? We can establish the omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God from the scriptures. That means that God is all-knowing. Nothing happens apart from His foreknowledge. It also means that God is all-powerful. He can exercise his final authority in all matters of life. And because God is nothing but good, his work is likewise good to and for its recipients.
If God is all-powerful, all knowing and all good then why did this (and other) bad thing happen? Why did it happen to people who were at church for bible study? These are questions that plague men’s souls.
At the risk of oversimplification, let me offer the following:
1. Human beings are given free will. We have the ability to make decisions according to our own volition. This is a good thing. Among other blessings, it ensures that our love for God is not forced. Our love for God and our fellow man is a willful decision.
2. God works through the willful decisions of human beings. Think of human beings as agents through which God accomplishes His plans for the world. This does not mean we are puppets. It means that through our free decisions God weaves together the accomplishment of His good plans.
3. The sovereignty of God calculates our poor decisions. God has thought through every possible outcome and subsequent fallout for every decision you can make. The scope of His knowledge is so broad, and His wisdom is so profound that He can calculate every contingency for every decision we make. Wow!
4. God can will good through evil intentions. The second clearest example of this is found in Genesis 50:20. After being sold into slavery, separated from his father and younger brother, enduring the insurmountable barriers of betrayal, lies and misfortune – Joseph tells his brothers that what they meant for evil (to harm him), God master-intended for good. This means that God can take the evil decisions of fallen human beings and cause them to work for the good of those who they intended to hurt. Hallelujah!
a. The clearest example of this is the cross of Calvary. God allowed the willful, evil intentions of humanity to crucify Jesus Christ. There is no greater evil ever perpetrated on another than that done to Jesus. And yet, no greater good ever came to the world. God brought about our salvation – the greatest good, through the tragedy of the cross.
So why do bad things happen to good people? I do not fully know, but what I do know is that God uses it for enormous good.
Published on Saturday, June 20, 2015 @ 10:19 AM CDT