I had hoped it would not be necessary to draft this post. Perhaps it is unnecessary, but there are a few things that (for lack of a better vocabulary) I must get off my proverbial chest.
Please do not perceive this as a rant, but as a few brief reflections on God and the Virginia Tech massacre. If you are weary of this topic, please skip down to Reflection 3.
Reflection 1: Tuesday morning, while the facts of the Virginia Tech tragedy were still being pieced together, a radio commentator in the St. Louis area made the following comment:
"How could our society have failed this young man [referring to gunman Cho Seung-Hui] so horribly? This is not how the South Korean culture deals with their problems, it's only in America that we deal with our problems in violence [not sure how this commentator overlooked Iraq and Iran, etc.]. In the nine-or-so years he lived here, that's what he learned from our culture--that you deal with your problems by killing people."Hearing this nearly caused me to pluck my over-sized ears from my head. According to this man, the American culture was to blame for Cho's depravity.
Scripture vehemently disagrees with this well-meaning but mis-informed radio commentator: human depravity is not cultural, it is universal. This man was just as capable of performing his dastardly deed in South Korea as he was in Blacksburg. His heart was just as deceitful across the ocean as it was across the campus of Virginia Tech.
I do not deny that our society and culture has its problems (no true Christ-believer would). But to blame this man's depraved behavior on society is dodging his real problem:
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV), "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Culture cannot be blamed for personal sin just as it cannot be lauded for personal reform
James 4:1-3 (ESV), "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passionsare at war within you?You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."
. Culture has never made people bad (remember the Garden of Eden), and it will never make people good (only Christ can do that, 2 Corinthians 5:17). In Jesus' own words, the heart is the issue:
Matthew 15:19 (ESV), "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander."Reflection 2: The only victims here are the dead and their families.
Cho is not a victim, regardless of what he states in his video diatribe. There is no one to blame for this tragedy but Cho himself. He devised the wicked plot; he purchased the guns and ammo; and he pulled the trigger. His parents are not to blame. His homeland (South Korea) is not to blame. Society is not to blame. The rich kids are not to blame. Christians are not to blame. And God is not to blame (see James 1:13-14).
Cho is no martyr. He is no victim. He is a murderer.
But before we toss stones Cho's way, let us remember that apart from the grace of God, each of us is capable of such heinous acts. Apart from God intervening and conquering the idols and sin in our hearts, we could have been the ones pulling the trigger. In a way, we have.
We are responsible for murder. We are responsible for an unjustifiable homicide. We took the life of an innocent man. Our sin demanded a Father's justice be poured out on an innocent, sinless Son. And so, Jesus died. Willingly. Purposefully. According to the will and plan of His Father.
He died for all who would put their faith in Him alone for salvation. It was the Father's plan. It was the Son's purpose. It was on our behalf.
May this week's events drive us back to the foot of our Savior's cross. May this week's tragedy cause us to reflect upon God's sovereign grace and goodness portrayed in the cross.
1 Peter 3:18 (ESV), "For Christ also sufferedonce for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit."Reflection 3: During times like these I find it helpful to remember the promise of Romans 8:28-29.
Romans 8:28-29 (ESV), "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."
Here are a few thoughts from these verses: First, God never promises to work all things for the good of everyone.
Paul qualifies the people for whom God is working--namely "those who love God ... those who are called according to His purpose." That God would be capable and willing to work all things for our good is a benefit enjoyed only by believers.During tragedies and disasters, the qualification of this promise is a truth many Christians overlook
. Accurately explaining the goodness of God to unbelievers requires that we include the qualification of biblical promises like this one. God never promised that circumstances would always be good, and He never promised that all circumstances would work for good in the unbeliever's life (which does not diminish His love for all, John 3:16)
. Let's be careful of giving either of these faulty and dangerous impressions.Second, Romans 8:28 & 29 present a detailed explanation of God's loving and purposeful providence in the believer's life
. I (attempt to) illustrate the truth of these verses with the following explanation:
Imagine your life as a jig-saw puzzle. Too often we think of God as a puzzle worker, frantically doing His best to make our lives resemble the picture on the front of the box. So when tragedies and disasters strike, God busily and hurriedly tries to salvage the final product by attempting to somehow make the pieces fit together. He does so with little planning, and little knowledge of where the pieces fit. He completes the jigsaw puzzle of our lives much like we would, with fear and trepidation that it may not all come together.
The more accurate picture is God as the puzzle creator rather than the puzzle worker. He created the jigsaw puzzle of our lives. He meticulously formed us, and fashioned the pieces of our lives to fit perfectly together. There is no hurry in His work. There is no frantic searching for misplaced pieces. The picture appearing on the front of the puzzle box is the finished product of our lives, ordained in eternity past. The tragedies and disasters of this life are those which He has planned, and he has shaped our puzzle pieces accordingly. Therefore, the puzzle pieces (even amid tragedy and disaster) fit together effortlessly and seamlessly, leaving no sign of struggle or panic--only beauty. It never fails, the final product always mirrors the image on the front of the box--the image of God's Son, Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29).
It is my hope that reflecting upon Christ's cross will help the puzzle pieces of tragedy fit together a bit more perfectly and purposefully for you as it has for me. God wastes no disaster. He squanders no tragedy. He only uses them to deepen our dependence upon Himself, and to conform us to the image of His Son. These events are not pleasant, but they are purposeful.
And in that we find hope.
Labels: Cho Seung-Hui, theology, Tragedy, trials, Virginia Tech