As the horror of the shooting at the Covenant Presbyterian Church School in Nashville set in, people immediately began drawing conclusions about what the shooting means, how it was handled, and what could be done to prevent such violence in the future. Perhaps predictably, many commentators see in these events evidence to support the beliefs that they have always held. Whether the beliefs are about gun laws, the LGBTQ population, Christians, mental health in America, school security, and even prayer, some are pointing to this tragedy and trauma to illustrate and reinforce their conclusions about how evil should be overcome in our country. Unfortunately, the zeal with which these issues are approached, coupled with the heightened emotions surrounding a profoundly evil event, make productive discourse nearly impossible. The problem of evil has very deep roots that are well concealed beneath hot-button talking points and short sound bites. That’s why I am so grateful for Scotty Smith’s prayer published by the Gospel Coalition. Scotty is a pastor from Franklin, Tennessee, and he captures and gives voice to our lament. “How long, Jesus—how much longer do we have to wait for defeated-evil to become eradicated-evil? That Day is certain, but we want it now.”
We know that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ all evil will not only be eradicated but it will be reversed. As Tolkien wrote, “One day everything sad will come untrue.” Acts 3:21 talks about this in reference to the Lord Jesus, “whom heaven must receive until the time of restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
Romans 12:9-21 tells us God’s plan for how to live as we long for the “time of restoring.”
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.