The recent, senseless shooting at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora along with this past weekend's massacre at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin have prompted countless questions.
"Why did the suspects do it?" is probably the biggest, most-asked question. Any answer we come up with at this point would be pure speculation, other than to say that these are yet more examples of the downward spiral the human race has been in since the fall into sin.
But another question many are asking is, "Why were some spared while others weren't?" Seventy people were shot at the Aurora theater. Of those 70, 12 died. But there were hundreds of other movie-goers and employees in the theater that night who were unharmed. Why? Was there a plan involved, or was everything just random chance that night?
Those who have been blessed by God with the gift of faith have the confidence of knowing that the events in our world and in our lives are not merely the products of random chance. We believe that there is a plan and there is a Planner. But that doesn't necessarily answer our questions of why some and not others.
When it comes to questions of why things happen to us or others, it would be wrong to think that everything that happens has been pre-ordained by God, so that we're little more than puppets on strings or mindless robots. Such a fatalistic view of life is not backed by scripture. While God knows everything, we must not mistake his knowledge with his will. Did God cause the shooters to open fire in the crowded theater or at the Sikh temple? Absolutely not! What happened was evil, and God never causes or authors evil.
But if God is all-powerful (and he is), and knows all things (and he does), then why did he allow such a horrible event to occur? Why did he allow some to die, while protecting others?
Two thousand years ago, Jesus was posed with a similar question. Several Galilean worshipers in the temple in Jerusalem had been killed by Roman soldiers, apparently for no good reason. Jesus was asked, "Why?" Jesus' answer was to point out that those slain worshipers hadn't brought their death upon themselves by their sins. If that were the case, there wouldn't be a soul left on earth, "for all have sinned."
That still didn't answer the question of why they were killed, or the unasked question, why were others spared. But rather than give a detailed, specific answer to that very tough question, Jesus turned the focus toward those who were asking the questions. He told them, "Unless you repent, you will perish." In other words, Jesus was urging them (and us) to take the opportunity sad and senseless deaths afford to ask a question of ourselves: "Am I ready to die? Do I recognize my sins and unworthiness to stand before God? Do I trust in Christ for full and free forgiveness? Do I believe his promise of an eternal home in heaven?" May the recent horrible, senseless shootings prompt all of us to ask those same questions today.
We may never understand why they happened, or why some were spared while others weren't. But we can be sure of this: We have a heavenly Father who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. His will may not always be clear to us, but it is always in our best interest.
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle.