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On Dec. 14, 2012, we watched the news in horror as reports of a mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., were being broadcast on the national news outlets.
As bits and pieces of information trickled in the horror turned to sorrow as we learned of the 20 first-graders and six educators who were senselessly gunned down by a mentally deranged young man; a man in dire need of help himself, who had somehow fallen through the cracks of societal ignorance and parental denial.
The days that ensued were marked by a nation mourning the lives lost. Although most of us did not know them personally, the gruesome nature of the events shocked us into being family. A person who, the day prior, we would have had no emotional attachment to whatsoever, suddenly became someone we cared deeply for. Such large-scale tragedies have a way of uniting complete strangers from across all walks of life.
A year has passed and the town is trying to heal and move forward. The old school building was razed without even a brick being spared in the hopes that a new building will bring some sense of comfort and closure to both student and parent, but the memory of that day has been burned into our consciousness.
There are many lessons that we learned since that day, but perhaps the most obvious is the reality of evil. The events that transpired in Newtown were nothing short of this. And while it is easy to blame a parent, a society or a gun for such crimes, but the reality is that our world is inundated with evil. The Bible tells us that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19) and that man’s heart is the seat of evil thoughts, and these thoughts are often manifested as actions (Matthew 7:21, 23). Man may pull the trigger, but evil pulls the heart.
There is an “evil one” the Bible speaks of (Ephesians 6:16) whose influence is seen at every level of human society. Since the day he wiled his way into the garden and deceived our first parents, thus bringing sin into the world, this slithering serpent has coiled himself around every human heart, exerting his satanic sway with every heartbeat (Jeremiah 17:9). He has been a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) and his guidance is leading humanity further away from its creator.
We can build more secure schools, and we should; every effort needs to be taken to try and protect our children. We may enact stricter gun laws and more thorough background checks, but they will not stop every person who has an evil intention. Evil is pervasive.
Yet, the hope I have in this world is that it isn’t always going to be this way. The scriptures promise a day when God will right all wrongs and the created order will be restored to its former beauty. That old serpent will be defeated, peace will reign and evil will cease to be.
Until that day we still live in this world, and only those who have experienced the grace of God in Christ are able to see that day coming. We know God can change the world because he changed our hearts. We know what it means to be delivered from evil, for we were delivered from ourselves. We know God is greater and Jesus is enough.
That is my prayer for Newtown, and for our town.
Brian Owens is an associate pastor with youth and children emphasis at Farmdale Baptist Church. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.