Summary: Evil and sin exist in the world, even after the resurrection. Our calling is to minister to our Lord’s victory
3rd Sunday of Easter – Va. Tech Shooting, April 22, 2007
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, in raising our Lord Jesus from the dead, you defeated the powers of evil, and triumphed over the results of our sin. In all that we do or say, in the way that we live our lives, let each of us testify to the reality of your glorious victory. And through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to live each day in the light of your Easter triumph, firm in our conviction of your final victory on the last day. Amen.
When I first heard the news of the murderous rampage at Virginia Tech, I mentioned to a few friends that I just couldn’t understand what would motivate a person to do such a thing. Although I wouldn’t condone it, I could understand what might motivate someone to shoot the person who had molested your child, or abused or killed your spouse. But why someone would go on a rampage and randomly kill so many innocent people. Such an act is simply beyond my understanding.
I then found myself in the midst of a disturbing conversation with a person who had overheard my comment. He said to me, with a rather assertive voice, “You of all people, should understand it. After all, you are a pastor of the Christian Church.”
“Yes, I’m a pastor,” I replied. “But what makes you think that I am able to understand what would motivate someone to shoot and kill so many innocent people?”
This person then responded, in all seriousness, “Do you mean to tell me that you don’t believe that everything that happens in the world, happens according to God’s plan? I think God is in control of this world, and has a purpose for everything that we experience.”
“What?!” I said. “Are you telling me that you believe that God was responsible for this person taking a gun and shooting all these innocent students?”
“Yes,” he responded, adding, “And I can’t believe that you don’t believe that God has a purpose for everything that takes place. Our lives are all predetermined by God.”
Looking him straight in the eyes, I said, “I don’t believe that. I believe that we participate in making our own destiny. Every choice we make affects the options and choices we have open to us in the future. The fact that I chose to go to seminary, instead of law school or medical school, for example, has opened some career choices, but closed others.
In addition,” I added, “I certainly do not believe that God was responsible for this tragedy. What ever happened to sin and evil. Do you not believe that people can be sinful, not live according to the will of God for their lives? What happened at this school was sinful if not downright evil.” And with that comment, this person just shook his head and left.
That conversation has haunted me since the day of the shootings. I surely do not believe that anyone here this morning, would think that God had somehow predestined, according to his purpose for life here on earth, that this horrific event to take place.
But what did happen to our understanding of sin and evil in our world? For the person with whom I had that conversation, the reality of sin and evil was dismissed with the thought that God predetermines everything that happens. But on the other hand, I might also ask if individualism has become so pervasive in our society, that we no longer recognize that our words and actions may well be sinful and adversely affect the lives of others. Have we become so “politically correct” in our thinking, that we believe sin and evil do not exist.
According to an Associated Press article published in The Herald this past Friday, it was reported that psychologists called Cho, the young man who went on this rampage, a classic case. In this article, Northeastern University criminal justice professor, James Alan Fox, co-author of 16 books on crime, stated, and I quote, “In virtually every regard, Cho is prototypical of mass killers that I’ve studied in the past 25 years.” But then he adds, “That doesn’t mean, however, that one could have predicted his rampage.” End quote.
Although Cho exhibited all the signs of a mass killer, was even diagnosed in a psychiatric hospital, and I quote, “an imminent danger to himself and others,” he was released. Even though his violent-filled writings were so disturbing he was removed from one class and professors begged him to get counseling, no one seemed to follow through, to see that he got the help he needed.