When I first saw the news of the Aurora shooting at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, I was so shocked that I literally shook for a few seconds in my seat. As I read of the accounts of people at the theater, how they fled for their lives in the scenes of confusion and death all around them, I felt for them. I tried to imagine myself in that situation — after all, I almost went to the local midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises — but I quickly realized that I could not perfectly place myself there with them. I could only try my best to sympathize with the victims and to dismay at the senseless evil on display. And I was also selfishly debating whether to go to the theaters to watch The Dark Knight Rises in view of this tragedy.
As I was reflecting on this a couple of days later, I realized many people would attempt to offer easy answers to this tragedy. Some people would offer observations such as “This is what evil is like!” I also heard uncaring and flat-out untrue comments like “This is God’s punishment on sinners!” Some would use it as a political moment to tout gun control laws. Others attempt to want to do something about this by saying “We should do more random acts of kindness!”
Perhaps the best response came from Marie, who was with her family at that theater that night in Aurora, and was questioned about God’s mercy in view of this tragedy. She wrote:
God did not take a gun and pull the trigger in a crowded theater. He didn’t even suggest it. A man did.
In His sovereignty, God made man in His image with the ability to choose good and evil.
Unfortunately, sometimes man chooses evil.
He is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil. It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act. Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.
Though we don’t have all the answers, we do indeed listen to the cry of our hearts: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4
God is always good.
Man is not.
Don’t get the two confused.
Indeed, God is always good even though man is not. But in addition to Marie’s already excellent points, I would like to add one more thing.
In the past, when such tragedies occur, I would be dismayed and say, “I guess this is what evil looks like.” I remember back when I was reflecting on the September 11 attacks, I shared with others that I’ve finally understood the reality of evil.
But I think I’ve given too much credit to evil. In light of the gospel, we should look at this evil act and say: even though this evil seems horrific beyond our imagination, even though it seems to be so senseless and unforgivable, we know that Jesus came to die even for this evil, just as He came to die for the evil in me. No amount of our gun control laws or death penalties or other legislations, and no amount of the display of our so-called acts of kindness, could save ourselves and our world. And that is actually good news, because even though we can exhaust all human means and efforts, we can only temporarily suppress some outward displays of evil, yet we can be assured that God is powerful and sovereign above all evil. And the way God repays evil is with His goodness and kindness and mercy, in the form of Him dying for us and providing us a way to be saved through Him.
Perhaps it is ironic that the Aurora tragedy happens at a superhero movie. One of the lies of evil is to get us forget about the power of Good. And this evil literally interrupted a superhero story to get us to focus on evil’s prowess rather than on evil’s defeat.
Let’s not allow evil to interrupt the story of God’s goodness shown in the gospel.