In light of the horrible incident in Charleston, SC, I am offering some thoughts on the question of evil that today is being phrased this way: "Where was God when the man started shooting Christians in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC?”
The answer is "where he always is, intimately involved with his creation. He is were he was when Adam and Eve disobeyed his command, ate the forbidden fruit, and brought the toxin of sin into every fiber of creation."
But that's not really the question or answer people long for. The real question is this: "Why didn't God stop that man from shooting those people, especially given that they were his people, involved in prayer and Bible study?"
I suspect that most if not all those asking this question have never really entered into a relationship with God personally, through trust in the promises found in Jesus Christ. But I also suspect that those most enraged about God permitting this horrendous tragedy don't actually understand what they're asking.
Those who think God should have stopped the man from killing the congregants of Emanuel AME Church are actually suggesting that God should have taken away the man's free will. Think about that. If you think God can only be the good God of the Bible if he does away with evil, then you are asking him to take away the power we all have to make wicked choices. And if you eliminate the possibility of wrong, hurtful choices you effectively do away with the freedom of the will.
Perhaps some might say "I don't want to give up my freedom altogether, but just the freedom to do horrendous things." In that case what you're asking is for God to limit certain evil choices. But, the question must be asked: "Who gets to choose which evil choices to restrict? And who gets to decide what is actually 'too evil' to allow?"
Some years ago I was asked by an insightful college student why God would allow babies to be born in the most impoverished places on earth when he certainly knew those children would live in squalor and pain, at great risk of debilitating disease and death. I replied "so what you'd like is for God to make all those living in those places infertile, unable to have children?" She had no answer.
When the face of evil presents itself, as it did Wednesday night at a Bible Study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC we must not take the easy way out and see it only as a reason to get mad at God. Rather, we must see it for what it really is: the face of human depravity.
The most important question isn't "where was God?" The essential question is "where is humanity in relation to God?" And more importantly, "how can the evil that dwells in me ever be forgiven and replaced with peace and love?"
As I watched the news coverage I was delighted to see others from the church seeking to encourage one another, to display true Christ-like character and even forgiveness instead of the twisted hatred and angry vengeance we have grown all too accustomed to these days in the aftermath of senseless violence.
So, where was God? Right where he has always been, and is now. He is here, working all things for his glory, and reaching out with the only solution to the problem of the human heart ... the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Father, comfort the families of the fallen through the peace that passes all understanding, and guard their hearts and minds in the everlasting love that is theirs through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.