Yesterday saw love on display; many couples enjoying a romantic Valentine’s dinner together. We also saw hate and evil on display in Florida; a former student returned to his high school and open fired, killing 17 people and wounding at least 14 more, many of those in critical condition. Our thoughts and prayers are with every person affected by this horrific incident.
These all too frequent acts of violence leave us all shocked, angry, filled with grief, and numb. It is natural to ask – Why does God allow this evil to happen? If God is so good why does He allow such violence and anger to continue?
The answer is simple – our ability to make choices. While we are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27), He also gave us the freedom to make our own choices, both good and bad choices (Gal. 5:13). Because of a decision made by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, mankind fell into sin. Romans 3:23 tells us that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
This free will granted to us by God is both our greatest blessing and our worst curse. We have the freedom to decide how to act, what to eat for breakfast, who to marry, what to watch on television, whether or not to commit our lives to Him, and sadly, yes, also the choice to walk into a school and open fire on innocent people. We have free will to love or to hate, to do good or to do evil.
God could eliminate the evil done in this world by taking away our ability to make choices. If He did, we would become puppets who do and say what God wants said and done. We would be like marionettes, with God pulling the strings. However, God does not desire us to be like puppets. He desires to be loved by people who freely choose to follow and obey him. Love is not love if there is no other option. Obedience is not obedience if there is no other choice.
You probably know what is likely the most familiar verse found in the Bible – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
But did you know, just a few verses later, we find out the root of our evil – “This is the crisis we are in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God.” (John 3:19, MSG)
So, that very same God who gave us free will, the ability to do and say both good and bad, also sent His Son into the world as a way for us to be redeemed and restored, giving us face time with the One who will help us carry out His will and His agenda.
Change our hearts, O God! And we cry out to Jesus, who is our Prince of Peace – please let us feel Your presence, Your loving presence, and see Your power, the only transforming power to change the world!
New Bern, North Carolina