I saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday (my review), but it was hard to focus on the movie rather than the shooting that will forever be linked to it. One pastor in Aurora told his shell-shocked congregation yesterday, “When our world goes periodically crazy, a flood of questions can come into our minds. The question we all probably struggle with is: Why did God allow this? My response is: I don’t know.”
Others are less unsure. One evangelist attributed the shootings to divine retribution: “we said to God, ‘Get out of the public arena'” while lawsuits “have chased away any fear of God in the land.” As a result, “we’re reaping what we’ve been sowing as a society.”
By this logic, the shooting was punishment for the sins of the nation. But consider some of the gunman’s victims. Veronica Moser-Sullivan was six years old. Jonathan Blunk, John Larimer and Jesse Childress were military veterans. Matt McQuinn died shielding his girlfriend from the gunman’s bullets. Alex Sullivan was killed three days before his first wedding anniversary. Would a just God let them die for the sins of America while sparing others in the crowded theater?
Conversely, an atheist blogger responded the day after Aurora: “It is flabbergasting how this God is always let-off the hook for anything and everything bad that happens, and is given only credit for the good things.” Is that true? Or is God blamed for evil far more than he is credited for good? The blogger is convinced that the shootings prove God is uncaring or nonexistent. Could it be that he is both caring and real, but that he permits us to misuse our divinely-given freedom even when the consequences grieve him and harm his children?
But we protest: surely there must be limits to such consequences if God is both loving and just. I understand why he would allow some sins, but not the murder of a six-year-old. So let’s do God’s job for a moment. Where does he draw the line? What sins should he permit, and which ones should he prevent? I don’t want anyone to murder my sons, but I don’t want anyone to injure them, either. I want God to protect them from lies as well. In fact, I want him to protect them from suffering of any kind.
If God prevents the consequence of any misused freedom, to be fair he must prevent the consequences of all such sin. And without consequences, we’re not free. If I order a pizza while on a low-carb diet but the delivery guy brings me yogurt, my freedom was only apparent, not real.
Like the grieving pastor, I don’t know why God allowed the Aurora tragedy. But I do know that he redeems all he allows, even the horrific misuse of freedom he gave us so we could love him and each other (Matthew 22:37-39). And I know that he is grieving with his children wherever they hurt today. Why are these facts relevant to you this morning?