I received the recorded phone message from the principal of the elementary school where my three youngest kids attend that informed me of the school having been in lockdown yesterday due to police activity around the school. I was assured that all of the students were safe and that the event lasted about an hour. Following this information was the suggestion that we as parents would talk to our children about the situation when they arrived home. Next door to the elementary school at the local highschool, a young man, upset with his ex-girlfriend had asked her to walk out in the woods with him where he planned to give her a surprise. As she closed her eyes for the surprise he pulled out a knife and began stabbing her. Multiple stab wounds later, he left her in a heap as he ran into the woods. This began an hour-long manhunt with K-9 units of dogs and multiple policemen . The girl survived the attack but has much recovery ahead.
I’ve heard the argument often, “If there is a God, why is there so much evil in the world?” It’s a question that comes from deep within the doubts and fears we all face as humans…is there really a God? Because it seems that if there were a God who was in control and all-powerful, He would prevent tragedies like this from happening…wouldn’t He?
First I want to examine the question at hand and break it down to the logic it supports. The first question that would have to be answered in this question is “what is ‘evil’?” How is it that we can say there is evil? Is there a contrasting “good”? What makes evil evil and what makes good good? In order to answer this question and define its terms we would have to start with some sort of morality. But whose morality? I am basically a good person, I have never stabbed anyone with a knife, I love people and have done good deeds in my life time. Should I be the standard of morality? Or what about Mother Theresa who gave her life to meet the needs of the outcasts and the poor….should she be the standard of good?
Then what should be the characteristic traits of evil? “If it hurts someone?” “If it takes away the happiness of another?” Then our definitions are completely subjective because vaccinations hurt, but can prevent diseases. Sending children to school could be considered a revocation of their happiness.
In order for there to be a distinction between good and evil, there has to be a standard that is not subjective. I submit that the standard is God. God is good. “Every good and perfect gift comes from above coming down from the Father of Heavenly Lights in whom there are no shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) So just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.
So, because there is a God who is the standard of morality and goodness, why are people that He created capable of evil acts? This is where the question gets personal.
Let’s look at the backside of that question and ask “Why are people cabable of good things?” Love and devotion, faithfulness, sacrifice, compassion, selflessness. Each of these traits and abilities stem from the human will inspired by something greater. It’s a gift from God…our “free will”. Our ability to choose love makes love passionate and romantic. Our choice to be faithful creates strong enduring relationships. Our gift of free will allows me to know the depths of compassion and the lengths of sacrifice that make heroes out of ordinary people.
It is this same gift that God has given to each person that allows them to choose evil. Instead of choosing love and compassion I can choose bitterness and hate. I can live in jealousy and vengeance if I so choose. I can choose to give life or take life. I have been given a powerful gift.
Why doesn’t God just stop the evil? Why doesn’t He make us do what is right?
If God were to make puppets out of all of us, then love would be forced and would not be love. Faithfulness would be regimented and not given from the heart. Sacrifice would be duty and never bear the mark of heroic humanity. Highs would become mellows and lows would be the norm. Light would become shadow. These are things we would miss and cause us to cry out “no fair!” We want to choose, to feel, to grow and to love. Yet coupled with this comes the responsibility to use our will to reflect the heart and character of God. Those who know Him can and should reflect Him best.
I’ve come a long way in answering the question of evil and good though this answer is not comprehensive. I have explanations to give my children. I will tell them about the gift of Free Will God has given each one of us and the responsiblity to steward it with the morality of God as the standard. We will talk about sin and how our decisions apart from God bring sadness and despair, but how living by God’s standard we give joy and life to others.
I am sad for the victim of this crime. I am saddened by the condition of the heart of the perpetrator. I am sad that evil had the upper hand. But the good news is that this same “free will” can be expressed from others in compassion, forgiveness, love and mercy. “Free Will” like “time” is a gift to use…let’s use it in the light of God’s mercy.