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Thoughts on Us, Jesus, & the Tragedy in Tucson

by on January 12, 2011

The city of Tucson, the University of Arizona, our state, and our nation have been rocked by the tragedy at a Safeway just miles from our campus four days ago.  Six people have lost their lives, while many others were wounded.  We continue to pray for Gabrielle Giffords and the others still in critical condition after the attack.  Later today we will join in prayer with the University Religious Council and UA President Shelton, and tonight we will join the Memorial at McKale with President Obama in remembrance and prayer for the victims, their families, and those still struggling for life.

As members of the UofA community and the greater Tucson community, I wanted to offer some thoughts on the tragedy on behalf of Cru at UA.  Most of us in Cru are followers of Jesus, and so we deeply believe there are profound and eternal things at stake in this tragedy, and we want to comment on just a few.  Others have commented far better on the political aspects of the tragedy, and we will not enter into that discussion here.

First, how are we to view this act? For one, as followers of Jesus we deeply believe in evil and the horrible reality sin, though we mourn it greatly.  Some would avoid the language of good and evil completely, focusing rather on societal influences that affect such horrendous behavior, or perhaps on mental illness.  We believe societal influences make a great difference, and that mental illness is a reality that we are not qualified to speak on.  But the Bible speaks clearly to not only evil in general, or in people like the shooter, but that wickedness and evil reside in every human heart.  Romans 3 speaks to this reality:

“…no one does good, not even one…Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Surely we can see this reality reflected in the evil act of the shooter.  It is unequivocally wrong and wicked.  But as followers of Jesus we are aware the roots of the same evil and wickedness and hate lie in our own hearts.  Jesus warned in Matthew 5:21-22 that the roots of murder are anger, and that God sees our unjust anger in our hearts and will hold us in judgement.

So, we are able to call out this act as absolutely evil and wicked, but we are kept humble and mournful because we know the very same root of wickedness lies in our own hearts.  We are reminded to be mindful of our own potential for evil and to seek a remedy for our hearts.

Second, whenever tragedy like this takes place in life, many of us ask questions like, “Where is God in the midst of this tragedy? If he is so powerful and good, why wouldn’t he stop such evil?”  These questions tend to come even with those who are not spiritual or religious.  The article, “Backstory” puts this reality well,

‎”Instilled in us is a longing for the ideal world & perfect intimacy for which we were created. We sense the evils of war & rape & death are alien to our existence. As Martin Luther King Jr. observed, we are confronted by an ‘eternal oughtness:’ that the world is not as it ought to be, that unconditional love & perfectpeace are forever elusive.”

These questions are natural.  They come to my own mind.  But before commenting on the actual question, we should notice that just the fact we sense there is injustice, that there is absolute wrong, that “this is not how it should be!” shows us that we were made for something different.  Christians believe this is because God did not create us for such tragedy and evil and sorrow.  We were created for a loving, perfect relationship with Him flowing out into love and care and goodness towards one another.  If there is no God, then this act is not truly evil.  If there is no God, then we cannot ask “Where is God in the midst of this tragedy?”  But we of course believe there IS a God in this.  Christians believe He is both powerful AND good.

So why didn’t he stop this great evil?  Why did He allow 6 people to die?  We are not given specific answers to questions like these in Scripture.  Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God…” We are told clearly that God is good and without any evil, AND that He is all-powerful and sovereign, but we are never told how those things work out in specific details.  But let me ask this question: Is it possible that, if there is a God who is all-powerful, all-knowling, and all-good, that He COULD work out things for greater good purposes that you would not be able to see or comprehend with your limited knowledge and understanding?  If He is all-powerful and all-kwowing and all-good, can He work out good in the end from this tragedy in Tucson?  It is a true act of faith and humility to believe that He could.

Lastly, there is unbelievable evidence in the Bible that God CAN and DOES work amazing good from the worst of tragedies.  In fact, Christians, at the heart of their faith, believe that God used the greatest tragedy ever to bring about the greatest good ever.  Jesus, the Son of God, was perfect and sinless.  He in fact is the only faultless human that ever lived.  He is the only One of us who ever did perfect justice, love, care, and who was righteous through and through.  In fact, Jesus said he was God come to earth to rescue us and forgive us of our sin, our incurable wicked hearts, as described in Romans 3.  So to kill him is actually the greatest tragedy the world has ever seen, for he is the only one who was truly innocent.

But, Christians believe that in this very tragedy and evil, God was sovereignly working out the greatest good possible on the cross.  He was paying for our sin and evil on the cross by taking on the punishment for it himself.  HE was taking the punishment for OUR wickedness.  And now Jesus is able to unite us to God in relationship with himself through the cross.  God accomplished the greatest good the world has ever known through the greatest tragedy the world has ever known.

So if you are not a follower of Jesus, perhaps you would consider that God can bring about good from great tragedy, and He can do that here in Tucson, just like he did 2000 years ago through Jesus.  And perhaps you will begin to see why Christians celebrate Jesus so much and trust him so much.  Maybe you will take a step to seek him out yourself.

And if you are already a follower of Jesus, mourn over your own wickedness and capacity for evil, and marvel that God paid for that evil through His Son on the cross, and that He will do good here in Tucson through this great evil.  And take the opportunity to share that wonderful news, if given the opportunity and in sensitivity, with others this week and this semester.

DJ Jenkins

Cru at UA Campus Director

Further Recommended Resources:

1) United in Horror – New York Times

2) The Tucson Tragedy and God’s Gift of Moral Language – Kevin DeYoung

3) Why does God allow bad things to happen? – Article from EveryStudent.com

4) Backstory Booklet – PDF on the Story of God

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From → Deep Thoughts

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