Today is another of those moments when we try to make sense of violence. We wonder if Mohammad Youusef Abdulazeez’s act in Chattanooga at two military recruiting sites was motivated by a mind twisted by radical Islam. There is no logic to the shootings which are too prevalent in our nation. I don’t understand how Dylann Roof could convince himself that walking into a prayer service at a church and slaughtering people is somehow noble or just. Equally, I don’t comprehend how Andreas Lubitz. a person with personal problems could take it upon himself to fly a plane into a mountain as happened a few months back on a Germanwings plane. There are certain moments in life that can only be defined as evil. Evil rooted in the mind and heart of a person through illness or subverted truth.
The question of evil is one that we will always wrestle with. We know that we live in a fallen world . . . A world where sin and evil exist. At times, when we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that evil exists even in us. We may never understand what caused the anger, rage and violence of yesterday’s Chattanooga attacks, but we do know ourselves and our own hearts.
Still, we wonder why God allows the kind of evil which targets the innocent. Why doesn’t God stop evil in its tracks? Is God indifferent? Does God care? Where is the will of God is all of this? Jeremiah was a person who often struggled with that question. He lived in the sixth century before the birth of Christ. In 587 BCE Jerusalem was overthrown. Much of the population was taken to Babylon where they would serve as slaves. Jeremiah had spent his life trying to prevent that catastrophic event. When he fails, Jeremiah’s heart breaks for his beloved city. He cries out to God with these words, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? Oh that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people!” (Jeremiah 8:22-9:1 NRSV) He cries out to God in his anguish, his pain and his sorrow. His tears of sorrow are a prayer, bewailing a world gone mad.
Evil spills into the lives of innocents, ripping hearts in two. This is never something God wants to have happen. Call it free will. Call it anything but God’s will. God’s desire has always been to save all of creation. For that reason, Jesus was sent into the world. While there are moments when evil seems to rule, God’s ultimate will, will be done. That ultimate will and purpose of God cannot be defeated. Nothing can happen which finally defeats God’s purpose and plan for each of our lives. Evil will have its moment, God will ultimately overcome, for God is greater than evil.
Today we grieve again, for lost lives and broken hearts. We pray to learn something from our losses, to grow as a nation and as a people. We pray to open our hearts to God’s wisdom and truth. We pray that troubled souls will find peace in God. A peace that turns hearts and minds from darkness to light.