With more and more frequency, a monumental tragedy occurs that I feel I need to address pastorally. With every event, every natural disaster, every disappointment, I still struggle with what to say. We are bombarded with up to the minute images of these tragedies in and through various outlets. News media, social media, etc. engulfs us with every passing development. And with such a deluge of information, we struggle, we are heart-broken. How can we not? Each one of these occurrences cause me to wrestle with this same question, “Should I ditch my sermon series and address the struggles of the week?” And yet, at the same time, I have to ask myself, “But has anything really changed? Has the world changed?”
The mass murder of people in Las Vegas is certainly worthy of our prayers, worthy of our attention and worthy of us asking some very hard questions.
- Why did this happen?
- Why did God let this happen?
- What should we do about it?
These are just a sampling of the questions and frustrations that come to our minds. For Christians, we must always frame events that occur in our world with a biblical world and life view. So how do we do that?
Hundreds of years ago, a theologian and philosopher from North Africa named St. Augustine developed a framework that, even today, is extremely helpful for us to follow when it comes to understanding the world around us and how to interpret it biblically. This framework follows the pattern of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. This framework can help us answer the big questions that arise out of tragedy.
Creation: God created the world and He called it good. ALL that God created was holy, perfect and untainted by sin. People were good. Everything was good. There was no sin or evil. There were no hurricanes. There were no mass killings. Creation was in perfect harmony.
The Fall: But the first people sinned. They disobeyed God and denied His goodness. Because of the sin of our first parents, evil entered the world. Not just the concept or idea of evil. Not just the possibility of evil, but real, unfettered evil. The Bible describes this evil in a threefold existence: evil in our own hearts, evil from the world and evil from a being, Satan.
It is easy to trivialize evil in our world to simply someone who does bad stuff. But if we really pay attention, there is real, pure evil in our world that sometimes manifests itself in ways like we witnessed this week in Las Vegas.
Furthermore, Americans innately believe the world revolves around them. Even our own news outlets bare this out. I had a friend tell me one time that he only reads news sources from other countries so that he can know what else is going on in the world and so he can see what the world says about us. What I mean by this is that the shooting in Las Vegas should and did affect us all deeply as it hit very close to home. And yet, did you know that last month more than 80 people were killed in an attack on a restaurant frequented by Shia Muslim pilgrims in southern Iraq?
I don’t say this to make you feel guilty, My point is to show you that evil is occurring all over the world, almost daily … and sometimes it is just closer to home. What we need to take from this is that evil, wickedness and sin are real and it has been that way since Adam and Eve first sinned.
Redemption: Now back to our hard questions. How do we cope? How do we deal with these tragedies? How do we understand evil that exists in our world? What can be done about it?
The answer lies in the next stage in our development of a Biblical world and life view and that is redemption. Because of His great love for us, God has done what we could not do by sending His one and only son into the world to die. Jesus experienced the hell of sin on the cross. Jesus took on our evil and was punished by the full, almighty wrath of God so that we might be redeemed.
Restoration: Evil reminds us that we need a Savior. We need redemption. We need to be rescued from a world and a black heart that is hell-bent on evil. Our only hope is in our Savior who has conquered sin and death and who will one day put an end to all evil and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Everything will be in perfect harmony again.
Jesus is on His throne. He is ruling and reigning over His Church and this world. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Though the world around us may change, though evil often seems so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is our Father’s world!
I saw where one pastor said this past week, “I’m so weary of this blood-stained world; but it is also a privilege, given by God, to walk through such a world bringing his peace.” I agree.
I’m weary, tired of the sin-sick world in which we live. But it is to this world that God has called His Church to be a light in the midst of darkness. It is in this present evil world that God has called Christians to point people to the Prince of Peace – the one who experienced an evil like we could never imagine when He died on the cross. The one who like a lamb was led to the slaughter so that we might be justified before God.
See you Sunday!
by His grace and to His praise,