I feel like I just cannot avoid addressing what has happened in Florida this week. I feel led very strongly to try to share with you some thoughts and hopefully offer some hope and comfort for those who are struggling or who may know of someone who is struggling. Too many are reacting in fear and they are letting that fear take root in their lives and begin to control their thoughts and actions. I would never be so arrogant to say to you that I have all the answers because I don’t. No one does.
I cannot speak for you but I have been struggling since I heard of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. I have also struggled since the shooting that occurred at the school in Kentucky and at the church in Texas. I have read posts and articles and listened to news reports and interviews. I have heard how people have tried to find someone to blame for allowing this to happen. Republicans and Democrats blame each other. Citizens blame the government for not doing its job. The gun manufacturer is blamed for making the gun. The NRA is blamed for standing up for the 2nd Amendment and rights for individuals to possess guns. Those who oppose guns and who are in favor of banning guns are blamed for pushing schools to be gun free zones and thereby open up schools to be attacked by gun toting criminals. Video game designers and movie studios are blamed for producing such violent material and making it available to children. Parents are blamed for allowing their children to play those games and watch those movies. School personnel are blamed for not picking up on the actions of the troubled shooter that supposedly pointed to this man as being someone who could commit this horrific act and then allowing him to slip through their system unchecked. Those who had their suspicions about the shooter are blamed for not speaking up. The media is blamed for making this shooter a celebrity by sharing his name and story with the rest of the world and possibly encouraging other would be criminals to do these very same acts. And, of course, God gets most of the blame for allowing the shooting to happen.
The one thing I have picked up from all of this is that there are plenty of people to blame for what happened but there is a problem. The problem is that they are all wrong. This is not a gun issue or a mental health issue. This is not a political issue or a media issue. This is not a video game or violent movie issue. While each of these influences could have contributed to what happened they are not the cause of what happened. This is a heart issue. Our actions originate in our heart. The real reason for this shooting relates to the condition of the heart of the shooter. The one responsible for the shooting is the shooter. We all need to understand that the shooter made the decision to do what he did. He did not have to do it. He was not forced to do it. He chose to do it. The blame for this shooting rests completely on the shooter. No one else.
But it is not just the condition of the heart of the shooter but it is also an outgrowth of the heart of our society and culture. As a society we have taken away personal accountability. When someone does something wrong they want to blame anyone and everyone else, including God, for the actions of the person who committed the vile act. All the fault and blame for what happened in Parkland, FL, rests completely on the individual who chose to commit this horrific act of violence against innocent people. Any time that we as a society try to put the blame for a wrong action on anyone other than the one who committed the wrong act then we foster a culture of blame that fosters the abdication of personal responsibility. Again, there is one person to blame and that is the shooter. Not God or the gun or the games or being bullied or the media or the NRA or the politicians or society or anyone else. The shooter owns all the blame. Everyone needs to stop trying to take the blame away from him. He planned the attack. He pulled the trigger. He killed and injured those innocent people. No one else! Period!
Some have asked, “Where was God? Why didn’t He simply stop this?” That is a good question. I don’t believe I will ever be able to answer that question to anyone’s complete satisfaction. I can’t grasp why this happened. But I will tell you what I believe. I still believe that God is good. I still believe that this act broke the heart of God. Even though I don’t understand why this shooting happened I have to believe that God is still God and that He can work through this situation. I don’t know or understand how. My finite mind cannot being to comprehend the infinite mind of God.
Far too often people want to blame God for all the bad things that happen in the world and never want to give Him credit for the good that happens in the world. You simply can’t have it both ways. That is disingenuous at least and ignorant at best. This dichotomy shows that a person who thinks this way does not have a grasp of who God really is or how much He cares for all of us. When you try to make God the scapegoat for all that goes on wrong in the world and never acknowledge what is good in the world your view of who God really is is drastically skewed. If God is not God all the time then He cannot be God any of the time.
A perspective shared by author Lane Palmer really spoke to me about God in relation to this senseless act of violence. Palmer writes in an article written on the 10th anniversary of 9/11:
“Where was God and what was He doing on that day? Any “‘answer” to this question that comes from a finite and limited human being would be in the category of flawed opinion. It seems to me that if we have a question for God – especially one that involves such a weighty issue – we should let Him answer. So let’s listen to the words of the One who has graciously chosen to speak to us: The LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness (Psalm 9:7-8).
“So the initial answer to “where was God on 9/11?” is simple…He was where He is today 10 years later. He is on the Throne of heaven where He always has been and always will be. He is perfect, so it is impossible for Him to operate outside the parameters of justice and fairness.
“But how is it “just” and “fair” when planes are used as weapons of war?
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
“In other words, in our limited perspective we take complicated scenarios and try to simplify them so we can try and make sense out of senseless violence. Or worse, in our arrogance we try and take a higher moral position than the God who is the source of all morality in the first place!” https://www.christianpost.com/news/where-was-god-on-9-11-55203/
Make no mistake – God did not cause these shootings to happen. God does not do anything that is evil because that would violate His character and that is something that He cannot do. What God does is give us free will. Unfortunately, sometimes the actions of others in exercising their free will adversely affects others. An intoxicated person gets behind the wheel of a car and runs into someone else and kills them. A person with evil intent in their hearts loads a gun and shoots innocent people. Both the drunk driver and the shooter exercised their free will and others were harmed. God did not cause that. He was not pleased with that. It broke His heart.
However, we need to understand that same free will that people can use to do evil can also be used to do good. The coach who jumped in front of the shooter to protect the students. The first responders who came to the aid of those who were injured. The good Samaritan who stops to help when they come across a wreck. All three of these are also exercising their free will by doing good and others benefit from their free will. That does please God. This kind of exercise of free will warms His heart.
If we did not have free will then we would be nothing more than robots programmed to act a certain way and do certain things and we would lose the ability to have a true relationship with God or anyone else. You see, that free will we have been given can be used to either love God or to reject Him. God gave us that free will knowing that we could make a choice to turn our backs on Him. God knew that without free will we could not truly love Him. God wants us to choose to love Him and not be forced to love Him. If we are forced to love Him then it really is not love.
God understands what it is like for the innocent to die. His Innocent Son was tortured and murdered for our sins. Jesus had done nothing wrong. He simply loved everyone. And even though He was innocent Jesus chose to go to the cross for us. He chose to give His life for us. On the third day after He was murdered He arose from the dead and made a relationship with a loving God possible.
God has already made His choice about you. John 3:16 tells us God’s choice – “For God so loved the world (that includes you) that He gave His One and Only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He chose to love you. The question is what are you going to do with your free will? Are you going to choose to love God or reject Him? Are you going to choose to do good or evil? The choice is completely yours.