Evil manifested itself on a spring morning at a high school in Littleton, Colorado, last month. In its wake is a community trying to grasp another act of terrorism in America.
Two teens dressed in black garb and loaded with weapons and bombs walked into Littleton’s Columbine High School on April 19 and began shooting students and faculty at random. When it was over 13 were dead and approximately 25 wounded. The two teens also died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
At the first news of the shooting you thought, “Oh no, not again! Another school shooting.” Then there was the inevitable live coverage from CNN telling us that another school in America had suffered an act of violence on its grounds. We are shocked, we ask “Why?”, and “How could this happen here?”
It is being called the “deadliest school massacre” in American history. That very phrase defines a chilling epoch of modern society that is hard to grasp and understand. Instead of safe places of learning for children have schools become the stages upon which the cancers of our age erupt with frightening regularity?
Consider what has happened in American public schools in the past 19 months. In nine separate shooting incidents at least 29 students and faculty have been killed while 70 others were wounded. They have occurred in the south, the west and the north, in middle class neighborhoods. The perpetrators have been as young as 11 years old up to age 18. The motives are varied. One of the killers said he “had no choice but to do it,” others had no explanation for their crime. In at least two of the cases the shooters were members of fringe cult-like groups.
Early reports from the Littleton, Colorado, shooting described the two students responsible for the shooting as members of an outcast group known as the “trench-coat Mafia.” They did not fit into the mainstream life of the school and were known to have a fascination with guns and an obsession with death. In exiting this life their anger gathered many innocent victims in its grasp, and left permanent scars upon the minds of friends and family.
How Could This Happen?
So many ask how could this happen? This Denver suburb is considered to be the safest in the area. I have a friend who relocated to Denver a few years ago and when looking for a good community with quality schools for his daughter was advised to buy his home in Littleton. “Littleton is the safest suburb in Denver,” he was told. I talked with him the day after the shootings and like the whole city he was stunned at what happened. He had just come from a meeting with a group of counselors, men who were trained at talking people through such a crisis, and he said that these men were at a loss to comprehend and explain why this tragedy occurred.
And that is the crux of the matter. All of the professional training and all of the knowledge offers little understanding and hope through such an event. Senior students at this school were less than three weeks from graduation. Memories of those happy days are now permanently clouded. Having lived through a manic assault on decency and order these students may never fully recover. Like veterans of war this experience will be tucked into mental closets, always there, kept behind a closed door that hides the trauma and horror of witnessing a life extinguished before its time.
Christ said the end of the age would see a period of desensitizing resulting in the “love of many waxing cold” (Matthew 24:12 Matthew 24:12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
American King James Version×). The apostle Paul described the end times as brutal and its people having little self-control (2 Timothy 3:1-3 2 Timothy 3:1-3 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
American King James Version×). No one can deny there are deep structural problems in American society, which contribute to a sense of hopelessness and frustration in some of our youth. Despite the efforts of good people to address these ills, an effective solution has not been found. Could it be because the nation has rejected the word of God?
Isaiah’s description of Israel applies today. “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten any more? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness-only wounds and bruises and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil” (Isaiah 1:4-6 Isaiah 1:4-6 4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward.
5 Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
American King James Version×,NIV).
Something Fundamentally Wrong
When so many acts of terror in schools keep occurring it means that something is fundamentally wrong with society. God lays the blame on those who have turned away from Him and do not consider His righteous teachings. In Ezekiel 34 He states that the leaders of the land have led people away from true paths of righteousness. God is calling out for the nation to repent and turn to Him. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 2 Chronicles 7:14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
American King James Version×). We need to understand that there is an evil spiritual being, Satan the Devil, who walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy (1 Peter 5:8 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×). We must not be ignorant of his devices. God has given us the power to overcome this present evil age.
In His ministry Christ confronted Satan and his demons on numerous occasions. He clearly understood the impact this evil spirit has within the world. On one occasion Christ called Satan a murderer and the father of lies (John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×). He said that Satan “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” Called by Paul “the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×), Satan works as “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×). He and his demons can influence events and trends in this world. The Scriptures also show that they can possess individuals and force them into irrational and self-destructive actions (Mark 5:1-20 Mark 5:1-20 1 And they came over to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, 7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the most high God? I adjure you by God, that you torment me not. 8 For he said to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit. 9 And he asked him, What is your name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. 10 And he sought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. 11 Now there was there near to the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. 12 And all the devils sought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. 13 And immediately Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. 14 And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. 15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 16 And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. 17 And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. 18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. 19 However, Jesus suffered him not, but said to him, Go home to your friends, and tell them how great things the Lord has done for you, and has had compassion on you. 20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
American King James Version×).
Evil, flowing from the mind of Satan, periodically intrudes the thin veneer of our cultured society and visits its wrath on an unsuspecting and deceived world. It finds a breeding pool within the pockets of social decay around the world. The difference in destruction is only by degree-whether it is hundreds of thousands of ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda or 12 teenagers and a teacher in Colorado.
Satan and his cohort of demons will continue to influence the course of events in the entire world, leading up to the crisis at the close. The political and religious system called Babylon which will dominate the world is said to be the “habitation of demons” (Revelation 18:2 Revelation 18:2And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
American King James Version×). His influence and spirit will not be quenched until a powerful angel throws him into the restraint of the bottomless pit. Then, and only then, will the earth be at peace. The message of the Day of Atonement points God’s people to this event.
Christ told His followers to pray for deliverance “from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13 Matthew 6:13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For your is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×). Daily we should ask God for the protection of His angels around us. Divine safety is a promise we can claim. Only God’s shield of protection prevents the unrestrained march of evil through the world.
How Can Such Evil Be Explained?
How then do we explain and come to an understanding of such an evil event as the recent school shooting in Colorado? A few years ago I read a story told by a criminal psychologist who dealt with hardened criminals imprisoned and awaiting trial. His job was to interview and evaluate those who had committed heinous crimes and try to determine why they committed them. Working for the defense and the state his mission was to find some psychological explanation that could keep a jury from giving the death penalty.
He listened to their stories of alcoholic parents, physical and sexual abuse, divorce, parental deaths, tough neighborhoods, uninterested teachers, and poverty. Some of them had low intelligence and learning disabilities that put them at a disadvantage. Listen to his questions about what he heard:
“But millions upon millions of Americans are born with these handicaps, or worse, and they don’t kill. From all those with hard lives, how does fate choose its lustful murderers?
“Late in the evening, in the security of my home, I lie awake as my wife and children sleep, pondering what dark force might be working right now in some other home.
“I am forced to ask: Is there evil?
“Not since my youthful debates on theism and agnosticism have I faced such a basic question. Some teach that such questions are silly and without meaning, but could there be such a thing as evil? Could there be an extra force, a dark force that works through humans and perpetrates terror? Are they evil, or does an evil force temporarily inhabit their soul?”
Coming to understand the many acts of mindless violence in today’s world is impossible without the spiritual revelation from God’s word. The most carefully crafted gun control legislation will not prevent such atrocities. Compassionate and skilled counseling will help patch the scars but never give the answers that completely heal.
Look To The Bigger Picture
In Christ’s day there were two tragic events that shocked the people. They wanted to know the significance and hear Christ’s comment. “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’ ” (Luke 13:1-6 Luke 13:1-6 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
6 He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
American King James Version×NIV).
Sometimes no satisfying answers can be found for the pleading questions of “why?” that ring out after such a terrible tragedy as the Littleton shootings-or the tragic deaths to which Christ referred. Sometimes all we can do is look to the bigger picture. Those listening to Him then, and those of us reading these words today, can choose to turn and change upon hearing the true words of life. The emotional impact of such tragic accidents and atrocities can motivate those who are wise to devote their lives more zealously toward the work and goal of the kingdom of God.
The sting and the tears of death will not be wiped away this side of the kingdom of God. But by being lights in a dark world we can offer hope and comfort to those in despair. We can make a difference today as we earnestly pray “thy kingdom come.” WNP