Summary: Reflections on the massacre at Sandy Hook, Newtown Connecticut
“How Can You Say that God is Good?”
John 14:25-27; Rev. 1:4-8
Sandy Hook – Newton Connecticut. That’s all I need to say to get your attention. If I had said those words last Sunday, most, if not all, of you would have had no clue what I was talking about. But now you do. The unexplainable massacre, the horrific nightmare has broken into all our lives. Once again, we’re aghast at the evil, sickness, and pain in our world. Once again, questions abound – either we’re asking them or we hear others asking them. And, if we’re honest, we know the answers are hard to come by. I say ‘we’, because I, too, hear them – I, too, ask them. And as a Pastor I’m supposed to have answers – if anyone can make any sense of it all, we pastor-preachers should be able to.
Well, let me make a confession – I don’t have all the answers. And I’m not sure the answers I do have are the right, or even the only answers. What I do know is that this overwhelming tragedy gives us, as the people of God, a golden opportunity to reflect on God, to examine our understanding of God, and perhaps to strengthen our faith.
So this morning I simply want to reflect with you on some of the questions that Sandy Hook has raised. My answers/reflections are certainly not theological treatises; they’re not even complete thoughts. They are just reflections of a preacher who is supposed to preach today on the peace that Jesus Christ brought and brings into the world. I am trusting God’s Word to accomplish God’s purpose in our hearts and minds.
QUESTION #1: DOESN’T GOD CARE? ISN’T HE SUPPOSED TO BE A GOD OF LOVE? Yes He cares. Yes He is a God of love. In fact God loves and cares enough to let people be free. When God created Adam and Eve He gave them the opportunity to love Him, to obey and respect Him. God knew that to force them to do so would not be true love – love cannot be forced. God could have stopped Eve from taking the apple and Adam from eating with her. But that would have made them prisoners to God’s desires rather than willing responders to God’s love. God knew full well the risk of granting freedom – that He might be rejected and that people might suffer harm and pain. But because He loved humankind, God let them freely choose.
Think about parenthood. As badly as we may want to hang onto our children forever, as desperately as we may want to make decisions for them throughout their entire lives, there is a point when we set them free. The tight reigns we placed upon them when they were infants are slowly loosened until one day we take them off. Then they’re on their own, free to choose, to become who they think they want to be and do what they think they want to do. It’s hard, sometimes, to stand by and watch what happens. But love demands we do so. Our lack of control does not indicate an absence of love – rather it communicates the presence of a deep, powerful love. We know they will grow through taking responsibility for their choices and, sometimes, suffering for the consequences of those choices. We know they will better understand the presence and power of evil and therefore have a better opportunity to know the love and salvation in God. We know that only when they chose to love us freely for their freedom do they truly love us. We care enough to let them be free.
So God lets people be free. So people sin. So evil keeps breaking into life. Sickness keeps penetrating bodies, hearts, and minds. God could have intervened at Sandy Hook and stopped it. But if He intervened there, we’d then ask why He didn’t intervene in the other school shootings, or in the movie theatre killings, or on the battle field, or in the countries where Christians become martyrs through dying for their faith. If God intervenes in one place, should he not intervene in them all? And if He intervened in them all, would He not be taking back the very freedom He lovingly gave us? Would He not be preventing us from taking responsibility for our choices and, sometimes, suffering for the consequences of those choices; from better understanding the presence and power of evil and therefore having a better opportunity to know the love and salvation in God? He knows that only when we choose to love Him freely for our freedom will we truly love Him. God cares and loves enough to let us be free. As Paul wrote (Ga. 5:1), “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”