the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
The Bible tells us that peace is established when human association rests upon God's Word. Thus, to be safe from robbers, we acknowledge the wisdom of God and declare theft a crime. We wish to be free from physical attack and so embrace Yahweh's prohibition against assault and battery. We hope to banish murder from our land, so we tacitly acknowledge God's perception and sentence someone to life in prison for homicide. Moreover, we teach our children right from wrong, inculcating them with the truth that good and evil are determined by God, not whimsy. Indeed, we inform them that everything runs smoothly when it is ordered according to Scripture and the only way to ensure a peaceful household (or society) is to walk in covenant with the most high God.
Hence, we look upon the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem and recognize that Jesus was born into a society that, for the most part, had abandoned God. Most were religious but once the heart of the Father had been revealed in the ministry of Christ it became clear that those who called themselves the children of Yahweh were in fact the children of Satan (John 8:44). Herod long employed brutality against his enemies but his savagery pales in comparison to the behavior of his countrymen some 30 years after his reign. In any case, a nation that has turned its back on God should not be surprised when its culture produces vile, vicious men.
I can only imagine the anguish of a parent whose child has died. I have sat with fathers and mothers who lost a little child and have heard them ask "why?". To attempt a comprehensive answer in the face of raw grief is inadvisable. I can only say that our loving God is in control and he knows our sorrow and pain. In addition, he promises that when our worst nightmare comes to life he will work it to our good and his glory (Romans 8:28-29). But that kind of help must not be the first words out of our mouth. More often we serve simply by sitting in silent empathy.
Nevertheless we cannot allow the question to go unanswered forever. Why: why were the infants of Bethlehem destroyed and why were the children of Newtown gunned down? At some point we must bluntly say that these things happen because mankind is unrighteous and a society that turns its back on God incubates evil rather than restricts it. This sort of answer may bring little relief to a shattered heart but I imagine that with time the parents of Newtown will want answers. And the only salutary answer is found in Christ. Not that Jesus' death and resurrection scoured this world of pain but that his salvific act made it possible for us to do the work of renewal.
We accept the individual embrace of salvation through the witness of another human being but we stumble at the idea of cultural redemption realized in the efforts of people living their lives for Jesus. No, we don't effect a person's salvation, the Holy Spirit does. Likewise, we are not the originators of corporate blessing but merely instruments of God, bringing our arena of activity into submission to Christ. Salvation and blessing are real just the same.
Our hearts break for Newtown. But we know mere legislation will not prevent this from happening again. The only way we will be made safe is through the widespread action of the Holy Spirit. The only way a beast is tamed is through the ministrations of a covenant family. Godly neighborhoods do not exist where there is no knowledge of sphere responsibility under God. And none of this can happen unless Bible believing Christians go fourth from the Church with a message of comprehensive salvation in Jesus Christ.