Last Friday a 22 year-old killed seven people in Isla Vista and injured another thirteen in a rage provoked by his failure to be accepted socially and sexually. What can we, as believers, say to those in this college community, and how can we make any sense of a macabre disaster such as this? What hope does the Christian have to offer a community that was stunned into silence Friday night? The Bible gives us a framework to help make sense of suffering and evil even as it points us to the Lord who will, one day, wipe the tears from our faces and bring perfect justice to a broken world. Consider:
First, we worship a God who is present, even at times such as this. The apostle Paul speaks to our plight when he boldly announces that God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). Yes, the darkness of sin and the corruption of hearts bent on evil are alive and active in this evil age. Our struggle, ultimately, is not against Elliot Rodger and his kin, but against Satan and his minions. But the evil one has boundaries and his final defeat is sure.
Second, we worship a God who cares. We are all too familiar with tragedies like the latest in Isla Vista. Proper nouns such as Newtown, Fort Hood, Columbine, and Oklahoma Cityare bitter reminders that our world is fallen. These places represent the sadness of death that shrouds the entire planet. When we find the dust of death in such concentrated clusters, when we think of the power that the words “9/11” still have, we ask, Where is God in this? Why didn’t he intervene?
The Bible offers many nuanced answers to our questions—answers beyond the scope of this missive—but one thing that should be clear: the answer cannot be that God doesn’t care. Why would we say this? The answer comes in one word:incarnation. God became one of us. God himself entered our history to redeem it and to redeem us. As evil as evil
is, it will not have the last word. Jesus suffered and died to put an end to all suffering. As one theologian put it, The cross is God’s great “nevertheless.” The Christian hope is rooted in the incarnation, the suffering of our Messiah, and the truth that Jesus is coming again to make everything new. And he will do it.
Isla Vista was and remains a tragedy. Lives were lost and hearts were broken. Mothers and fathers will live without their sons and daughters. Siblings lost their brothers and sisters. Friendships were fractured by death. Let us pray that good will come from evil. Let us beg God to do his work in our lives and in the lives of those most intimately affected by this calamity. Tragedy can lead us to hardness of heart, cynicism, and despair. But our pain can also lead us to God and his grace and mercy.
Let us pray, together, for the latter. Let us pray that the tragedy in Isla Vista will provoke repentance and faith in our lives and in the lives of the students of UCSB. I write the morning after Benji Bruneel preached on Acts 12. One of Benji’s main points was that his passage calls us to pray audacious prayers. Big prayers. Prayers that we have a difficult time believing God will answer. Well, here is one such audacious prayer. Let us pray that this tragedy will be the catalyst for faith, not fear. Let us pray that the blood spilt by Elliot Rodger will lead many, hundreds, thousands, to trust in the blood of Another who died in our place. Let us pray that Isla Vista will become known as a place not for parties, but for praise. Let the audacious prayers begin.