In Aurora, Colorado people are experiencing pain I can only imagine as they mourn the loss of their friends and family. James Holmes’ own family has been thrust into confusion and heartache as they wonder how someone they love so much is capable of so much evil. Throughout the United States people have been confronted with a sore reminder that it’s not just powerful dictators in distant third world countries who senselessly kill helpless people. It happens at home, and we don’t understand why.
Amidst all the pain, suffering, and confusion we look for a reason. We want to know why it happens. What goes wrong in someone’s head to make them want to storm into a movie theater dressed in ballistic gear, carrying 4 guns and some gas bombs, proclaim “I’m the joker,” open fire on people … and seem to enjoy it? It’s evil!
Some look to God as the ultimate scapegoat. He’s the one who is in charge. Where was He when Holmes strutted into the midnight showing of Batman? Why didn’t He stop it? Why did He let all of those innocent people die? If He created everything isn’t He ultimately responsible for all this evil? Why did He create evil? Below are a few thoughts:
1) God did not create evil. Evil is not a created thing. All of creation was originally good. In the beginning there was no corruption. No evil. Creation was complete. There is no indication that God did any further ex nihilo (literally “out of nothing”) creation after the Genesis 1 account. Even Adam and Eve were created out of ingredients He had already formed.
Evil is not an object, a state of mind, an idea to be pondered, or a philosophy to be understood. Evil, in it’s very essence, is de-creation. As rust is the decay of iron, evil is the decay of creation. Evil unravels creation. Evil is against creation, and against anything and everything that is good. Evil is rebellion against God. So did God create evil? No! You cannot create something that is not created, something that is ultimately anti-creation.
2) “Evil doesn’t make sense.” I recently told that to a young woman who was trying to make sense of the deep betrayal she just experienced from a “friend.” She wanted to make sense of why someone she knew would hurt her so badly, and why God allowed it to happen to one of His people. What had happened to her was evil, and there was no denying it. Since evil is de-creation, since it unravels everything that is good, since it is ultimately rebellion against God … it cannot make sense. That’s why evil makes us feel so vulnerable, anything we cannot understand or explain makes us feel very vulnerable. No wonder we tend to question God when faced with evil. But that’s not the end of the story.
3) Jesus made himself vulnerable to evil, and became the ultimate scapegoat in the greatest evil ever committed. In Christ, God is not immune to the suffering caused by evil. Evil was committed to Jesus. He was betrayed, He was beaten, He was falsely accused, He was not given justice … and we killed Him. We killed God. It was the greatest evil ever committed, and He used it for the greatest good ever imaginable. The bible tells us that “for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). So not only was Jesus beaten, abused, and exposed to evil, he took on our sin. He took the blame for all the wrong that I did. He actually became the scapegoat that we still try to make him out to be.
Even the term “scapegoat” comes from the Old Testament. On the day of atonement the high priest took a live goat, put both of his hands on the goat’s head, confessed Israel’s sin on the goat, and then ran the goat off into the desert (Leviticus 16:20-22). The scapegoat took on Israel’s sin and took it away.
Jesus fulfilled the scapegoat’s role, so there is no longer a need for a real goat. He took on our sin and took it away from us. The great irony is that we try to blame God for the evil that people do, and 2,000 years ago Jesus beat us to the punch and took on the guilt for our evil voluntarily.
4) When we’re confronted with evil, we can truly be grateful for God’s wrath. Evil makes us angry, and it should, but there’s little we can do about it. Our anger is distorted and weak. God’s anger is good and powerful. Only God’s anger can punish evil and ultimately set everything right again. Since God is light and there is no darkness in Him, His anger is completely good and completely against evil. Justice will be served.
I hope James Holmes comes to know Jesus, and Jesus will gladly absorb his guilt. However, if he does not, he will not go unpunished for his actions. This shouldn’t cause us to cheer, but it can bring relief that justice will be served. For a little more on God’s wrath read this post.
5) One day He’ll make it right. Evil absolutely does not make sense. We are acutely aware of the need for sense to be made of it. We’re not able to make sense of it because we’re incapable of fixing it. However, one day, God will. The book of Revelation shows a beautiful picture of creation restored. Evil has been banished, beauty abounds, and Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes. Isaiah foretold of a day when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). So right now we see a world that’s broken and where people commit evil that we don’t understand. But one day, that will all be over. Jesus will make all things new, and everyone who has put their faith in Him can put thoughts of evil behind them for eternity.