In the light of such a horrible evil visited on the people of Sutherland, TX, especially the members of FBC Sutherland, what does the Christian faith have to offer? Is there something about a Christian world-view that is significantly different from other world views that provides a pathway to hope?
Such horrific evil shocks and everyone wants to find and connect the dots. Why did 25 worshippers in a small Baptist Church die? Why did a young father do such a awful thing? The Christian world-view, like all perspectives on this massacre, asks the same questions, but the Christian world-view must ask even more.
This is because the Christian world-view dignifies suffering. The Bible recognizes brokenness as part of the human experience. Jesus said in Matt. 5:4, “Blessed at they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Other animals suffer. That is known from simple observation. But, only a human being can reflect on suffering, seek to understand it, give it a frame of reference and find meaning in the midst of it. This is an exclusively human process.
Unlike atheism, Christianity recognizes that human life is uniquely different from all other life. Humans are not just the top of an evolutionary feeding chain. Every human life has dignity and eternal value. Every person born has an inestimable worth. Every human is in the image of God. Thus, murder is more than just a crime. It is an assault on that dignity. It is an assault on the image of God.
Other world–views do not have that understanding, thus they have to find creative ways to elevate murder to a higher level of crime. The best they could do was develop a new category of murder; the hate crime. It assigned a higher level of criminality to certain murders, but it is not based on the intrinsic value of all human beings, but instead on the value of certain classes of human beings and on a value judgment of the intent of the murderer. Which is an interesting exercise in mental gymnastics, because generally atheism does not recognize value judgements.
This is the result of a world-view that sees human life as nothing special. It is just the result of random accidents. There is no creator, thus there is no image of the creator. Life comes into existence without any innate design or purpose. It is not good, it is not evil; it just is. Since the existence of human beings has no meaning, then human death has no meaning.
Thus, the atheist and the naturalist, they have nothing to say about human suffering. They will call this attack “evil,” but they have no moral framework for comprehending evil or for dealing with it redemptively. To them there is no such thing as redemption. Without God, evil is just the strongest word they can think of to describe something they wish hadn’t happened.
What kind of message of hope can they bring to the survivors in Sutherland? The truth is, a world-view without a creator God simply does not have to struggle with these kinds of questions. All they can say is, “It happened. I’m sorry, but your suffering has no meaning because life has no meaning. Your loved one’s life was meaningless. So is their death. Pain, suffering, broken heartedness – it all means nothing.”
Not so for the Christian world-view. Here’s the truth we must acknowledge. Human life has value because we were created in God’s image. Human suffering does not negate that image. As a matter of fact, in our suffering we can find the reality and presence of God in ways far more profound that most people realize. In Christ we can find meaning, purpose, even in the midst of great suffering.
There is one other thing. It is difficult to mention. According to scripture when two or more are gathered in His name, He is in their midst.
God was with the believers gathered for worship at First Baptist Church, Sutherland that fateful Sunday. He was there when the shooter opened fire. He was there when each victim breathed his or her last breath. He was there, and He had already acted to bring redemption and hope to such immense suffering. That was what Jesus did on the cross.
What other world-view can proclaim such a beautiful thing?