Reacting to the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School

I know that it was with great sorrow we each heard on Friday of this last week that a gunman entered into an elementary school nearby in Connecticut. Twenty children as young as five and six years old, six adults, and the shooter himself were all killed on that horrific day. How should we react to this awful reality? I would like to give nine biblical reactions which we should have. There are others, but I believe that these nine will help us stand firm in the face of this calamity.

First, we must rightly acknowledge the horrific evil nature of this event. There is no getting around the pure wickedness that took place on Friday. We cannot side step the reality that a 20 year old man chose to carry out this dastardly event. This is pure evil. There are 20 children and 6 adults whose lives were prematurely ended. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Proverbs 8:13).

Second, we must weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). There are countless families affected by this event and we must grieve with them and pray for them through this unspeakable sorrow. We were all reminded Friday that we live in a world in which we could say goodbye to the ones we love in the morning and never see them again on this earth. For us, this is a very real possibility. For many families in Connecticut, this is a very real reality. 

Third, we must react by acknowledging the goodness of what God made: All that God made was very good (Genesis 1:31). There was no sin, no evil, no suffering, no grieving, nothing of the sort. All that God made was good. There was no trace in God’s good creation of what happened on Friday.

Fourth, we must react by acknowledging that all the evil in this world is traced to trying to live independently of God. In the face of this good and generous God, Adam and Eve (and in them all of humanity; all of us) choose to live independently of this good and generous God (Romans 5:12). They did this knowing full-well what God had promised if they did so: Death (Genesis 2:17). This promised and now realized death included all aspects of death. They immediately were on the road to physical death, immediately they died spiritually, and immediately they were facing eternal spiritual death. This is the reality of life lived in rebellion to God.

Fifth, we must react by being shocked and by not being shocked. We must be shocked because what took place on Friday is an unspeakable horror—a horror that at its DNA has been repeatedly played out upon the stage of human history. But that is just why I say we should react by being shocked and yet by not being shocked. Such horrific events should not shock us when we consider the very nature of who we are. Scripture teaches that we are evil from our youth (Genesis 8:21). It is only God’s common grace and providence in this world that keeps this kind of thing from happening every day of the year. It is but by the grace of God (common and saving grace) that we ourselves were not the ones walking into that elementary classroom to carry out this wicked act. Left to ourselves, our hearts are desperately wicked. But for the grace of God, given the right provocations we will express this heart wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9).

Sixth, we must react by facing the ugly reality of sin and its fruit and by turning away from it to glad submission to God through Jesus Christ. In other words, we must react by turning from any aspect of our lives that is currently being lived independently of God and turn to Him in complete dependence based on what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the empty tomb. This large scale eruption of evil and wickedness built up over time. It sprang from a fallen sinful nature and it was nurtured until it exploded forth on Friday. What sins are you currently nursing that will one day explode forth in destruction? Though we would not expect and would hope none of us would ever carry out such a deed, we still have to ask this searching question of ourselves: What sin are we currently nursing that will one day explode and ruin our life, our families, or even this church? You see, sin always leads to death: “When lust has conceived it gives birth to sin and sin when it is accomplished brings forth death” (James 1:15). Events like this should make us acknowledge the reality of sin, recognize that we still have the principle of indwelling sin ourselves, and be quick to turn from any of our known sin.

Seventh, we must react by redoubling our efforts to get the goodnews of Jesus Christ out to those around us. Twenty-seven more souls entered into eternity on Friday. The horrific circumstances that surround their death cause them to stick out to us. But another constant reality in this world is that over 150,000 souls enter eternity daily. We have the goodnews of Jesus Christ in a world that is constantly full of bad news and those who do not know the goodnews of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must tell them. We must pray for the goodnews of Jesus Christ to be evident in Newton, Connecticut.

Eighth, we must react by being consistently incensed at the snuffing out of life that was given by God. Genesis 9:5-6 is very clear that human life is valued at the premium by God and the taking of that God-given life is required by Him. Let us be incensed that a gunman would enter into a classroom of young children and snuff their God-given life out and let us equally be incensed that every day over 3,000 documented clinical abortions snuff out God-given life legally in America. The same America that rightly mourns the slaying of 20 children in Connecticut would have legally allowed their slaying in the womb if their mothers had so chosen before their birth.

Ninth, we must react by remembering that this is not all there is. One day, all wrongs will be made right and Jesus shall reign. One day “the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). There is coming a day when all things will be in submission to Christ and He will hand over all things to the Father and God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). For those of us in Christ there will be no more sorrow and no more tears. But before that takes place Jesus will return to take His bride home to be with Him. And so, events such as this should make us cry out all the more: Maranatha! Lord come!

May the Lord help each of us to speak about this tragedy to the unsaved around us with compassion, with genuine righteous outrage at evil, with a commitment to protect life wherever it may be, with repentant sorrow over our own sin and with an unshaken trust in what our good God has planned and is bring to fruition for this sin-cursed world. Maranatha!