Reflections on the Shootings at Chardon (OH) High School

From Fox News.

One student was killed and four were wounded during a shooting early Monday at an Ohio high school, authorities said. A suspect, whose name has not been released, is in police custody. Civil deputy Erin Knife with the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office said the shooting was reported around 7:30 a.m. Monday at Chardon High School. The suspected gunman, believed to be a student, fled the school on foot and was later apprehended after turning himself in. Authorities have not released the juvenile’s name because he has not been charged yet.

Read it all and weep over this sad, sad story.

UPDATE: Tragically, two more students have died. A terrible tragedy gets worse. May God have mercy on our souls.

Once again evil has reared its terrible ugly head, this time manifesting itself in another school shooting. Every time we hear stories like these, we ask the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?” Even with all our technology and enlightened thinking, we still don’t know what to do with the problem of evil when it confronts us.

What follows are my own theological musings on this question. I don’t claim to have all the answers and the Bible is quite reticent about addressing this question. We are told, for example, that the serpent tempted Eve and caused the downfall of the human race. But we aren’t told why the serpent was in paradise in the first place. Having said that, I do think there are some partial explanations for why God allows evil to happen, especially when the evil is directly tied to human sin as in this awful story.

In my recent sermons I have talked about God’s purpose in creation and how human sin turned away from God’s creative purpose for us. God created humans to be his image-bearers, to reflect his goodness and love out into the world as wise stewards of his creation.

Like it or not, understand it fully or not, this is the main way God chooses to interact with his worldthrough the wise stewardship of humans who reflect God’s goodness and love.

Sin occurs when humans fail to live up to these tasks of being God’s image-bearers and wise stewards, when we seek to reflect our own damaged image out into the world (or reflect the world’s brokenness instead of God’s goodness back to itself). When that happens, sin also serves as a conduit for evil of all kinds. Thus we see kids shooting other kids, among other things. No one, I repeat, no one, who is God’s true image-bearer would do what happened today.

That, I think, is primarily why God allows evil to exist–because God operates mainly through wise human stewardship and we are more often than not unwise. God allows evil to exist, not because he doesn’t care about us or is a distant God who is far removed from the activities of his creation and creatures, but because God has given us the freedom to be stewards in the manner he created us. Otherwise we would be slaves and not human at all. And if that were the case, we would be incapable of having a real relationship with God. Of course that would be directly antithetical to God’s good creative purposes for us. So when we abuse the freedom God gives us and fail to be wise stewards and/or outright reject God’s call to us to be his image-bearers and turn almost completely inward on ourselves and our own brokenness and evil (as the shooter clearly did), evil is allowed to happen. To the cognate question as to why God has chosen to establish the ground rules for interacting with his creation in this manner, I wouldn’t have a clue.

Sin caused the world to fall under a curse and we are called to bring God’s healing love to others by being God’s true image-bearers by following Jesus in the power of the Spirit. The more we know God, the less tolerable sin is for us and the more we are enabled by the Spirit to reflect God’s love and image out into his world. Simply put, we become what we worship. Clearly the shooter did not have any remote image of God in him, at least when he did his heinous work, and we see what happens when we refuse to be the humans God calls us to be.

None of this is going to be of any comfort to those who have lost loved ones today or who have wounded children fighting for their lives in the aftermath of these shootings. Neither does it negate or diminish the terrible tragedy that occurred today and our hearts our broken as we grieve for the family of the dead students and pray for those wounded in this attack. Likewise, God’s heart is broken because this is not what he created humans for. When I am overcome by grief over evil like this–as I am today–I try to remember the cross, where Jesus, God himself, suffered and died for us to defeat evil and show us the way back to being truly human, the way God intends for us to be human, and so to bring his healing love and redemption to a world created good but now terribly broken and weighed down by sin and evil. And yes, that means we need to be praying for the shooter as well, that God turns his heart back to God.

A suffering God like that surely takes no pleasure in murder and surely grieves with us all on this dark day.

Let us pray. Merciful God, hear the cries of our grief, for you know the anguish of our hearts. The evil behind these shootings is beyond our understanding and more than we can bear. Accept our prayer that as Daniel, Demetrius, and Russell have been released from this world’s cruelty so may they be received into your safe hands and secure love. We pray that justice may be done and that we may treasure the memory of their lives more than the manner of their deaths. For Christ’s sake. Amen.