That was my first thought Sunday when I learned about the tragic shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
As you know by now, 26 people were killed when a gunman burst into the 11 A.M service of the small congregation and opened fire.
The youngest victim was a pre-born child. The oldest was 77. The church pastor’s 14-year-old daughter was also murdered.
Additionally, 20 congregants were wounded.
Reports today suggest the gunman was deeply disturbed and motivated by a dispute with his ex-wife’s family.
A church shooting is always shocking in part due to the sacred nature of the space. After all, almost nobody goes to church in America thinking they’re in physical danger.
At least they didn’t use to think so.
Yet, if you think violence is on the rise in places of worship, you would be correct.
From the senseless murder of two sisters at my own New Life Church congregation here in Colorado Springs in 2007 to the carnage at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, homicide is occurring with increasing frequency in places of presumed peace.
Every horrific incident is unique, of course, complicated by countless factors, big and small. As Christians, we realize that we live in a sinful, broken world and sadly, there is no shortage of daily tragedy to emotionally manage.
The Christian Church is strong and resilient. It will survive the evils of the day. But I think it remains natural and normal for us to wonder why God nevertheless allows such evil at all.
Writing on that timeless debate about God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, it was C.S. Lewis who once observed:
Of course God knew what would happen if they [men and women] used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings – then we may take it it is worth paying.”
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