In the latest of newsworthy acts of evil, a 16-year-old in Pennsylvania walked into his high school this morning and, wielding two knives, stabbed at least 19 people. By grace, none of the wounds were fatal, but of course, the students, faculty, and community still need our prayers and ministry.
Certainly, heartbreaking and evil deeds are done every day and everywhere, but it is these rather shocking events that more widely raise the question, “If there is a God, why does He allow things like this to happen?”
Volumes have been written on this over the centuries, and we can’t give a comprehensive explanation in a bleat, but here are some things things we know as Christians.
We live in a fallen world. Sometimes, we refer to it as a “Genesis 3 world”, because Genesis 3 documents man’s fall and the consequences that the world is still feeling today. Man is inherently sinful, and so sadly, evil happens everywhere, every day.
However, that’s not a sufficient response, because God is sovereign, and He doesn’t just allow man to do whatever he wants. He holds back our sinfulness, and we praise Him for that, because if He didn’t, heinous things like this would be happening all the time and everywhere.
So, why does He hold back some sins, but allow others?
The Christian knows that God is perfectly good and totally sovereign. Therefore it follows that everything that happens is for good. Even if the thing itself is evil and horrendous, there are certain consequences that are for a greater good, often things that in our finite minds, we cannot comprehend. But for example, if even one person heard the gospel from a Christian giving him comfort in this time of distress, and that person believes, that one soul being saved from an eternity of hell is a greater good.
There’s another aspect in which God does everything for His glory. For the unbeliever, that’s not a satisfying answer. None of this is. But for the believer who knows God, and knows that whatever glorifies Him is ultimately the best, and knows that God is worthy of all glory, that believer says, “Do what You will, Lord! Show us Your glory!”
This is just a brief overview of how a Christian understands evil. Finally, consider that God Himself experienced the most terrible act of evil in all of history. His Son, who committed absolutely no sin, was brutally beaten and scourged and nailed to a cross in a shameful, humiliating death. Then, He had the full weight of His Father’s wrath poured out on Himself that multitudes of sinners like you and me deserve. He is no stranger to injustice and evil. And He willingly offered Himself up to save all who trust in Him.