I woke up Monday to the unbelievable news coming out of Las Vegas. The Seattle Times had labeled Vegas as the “New City that never sleeps,” but on Monday it became a city that weeps. In an act of sheer evil and madness, 64 year old Stephen Paddock from Mesquite, Nevada, fired countless rounds into a helpless and unsuspecting crowd of concert-goers. The latest reports indicate that Paddock killed 58 people and injured close to 500 more individuals. It is the worst mass shooting in US history. How on earth does such evil exist?
Perhaps you may have a hard time reconciling the idea of a loving God and such tragedy in the world. Las Vegas was such a tragic event, and yet these days it feels as if such episodes are far too common. There seems to be so much evil, hatred, and violence in the world around. What is the deal? Where is God in the middle of all of this?
This past week I have been studying for a new sermon series on the overall story of scripture. The Bible is one connected story of God’s creation, man’s fall from grace into sin and rebellion, and God’s plan to redeem and rescue his world. Many people do not see how the pieces fully connect, and get lost in the weeds; however God’s story and plan is woven throughout in a continual and progressive plan to redeem a broken and sinful world.
The key to understanding the Bible, and even the events of modern times such as the Las Vegas shootings, lies in the book of Genesis — the beginnings. In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth out of nothing. God is revealed as a creator king who brings forth life and order out of chaos and darkness. Man and woman are made in the image of God and given stewardship from God over all the earth. They serve as God’s co-regents to represent and reflect him on earth. God gives them only one command to obey – representing a choice to follow and obey the Lord or decide for themselves what is right and wrong. God warns, however, that the consequence for disobedience is death due to the fact they are rejecting the God of Life.
And…they choose their way over God’s way. Man and woman fall for the temptation to disobey God and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their desire is to become their own god, and determine their own sense of right and wrong, good and evil. The consequences are disastrous. Humanity becomes separated from God, exiled from God’s presence in Eden. The human heart becomes filled with guilt, shame, fear and they seek to blame one another instead of taking responsibility. In its fallen state, humanity has become broken and morally bankrupt. All of this takes place by the third chapter of Genesis.
From that point on, sin escalates rapidly. Adam’s son Cain kills his brother out of jealousy (Genesis 4). A man named Lamech takes two wives instead of one, and then boasts of killing a man (Genesis 4). By Genesis 6, we are told that man’s heart was so wicked and full of violence that God was grieved he had made humanity. The Lord sends a flood to bring an end to man’s violence, but saves Noah and his family. By Genesis 11, we see that humanity is still prideful and boastful seeking to build a tower to the heavens, while pushing God to the side. God’s world has been turned upside down, and man has reversed the rules.
The bottom line of scripture is this: The world is a good world that has been made bad by humans and their sin, and not by God. It is not just Adam and Eve’s fault, but all of humanity has in some way contributed to a broken and fallen world. We are a world in need of help, of rescue! Christ has come to restore us. We still live and walk among evil, violence and brokenness. As much as ever, we are in need of the grace of Christ to restore us. And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at david@ sscommunitychurch.org or 634-2960.