The deadliest shooting in America’s history, which killed 58 people and injured more than 500 concertgoers in Las Vegas last month, shocked America and left many asking “why” in the tragic aftermath.
Many people don’t understand what would be in a person’s heart to spray bullets into a crowd to kill and wound as many as he can. Or what’s in the heart of a person who drives his car across a bridge in London and into a crowd of people, gets out with a knife, and stabs innocent people and police officers. Or what’s in the heart of a person who would take a knife and cut off the head of another human being. Many don’t understand what’s in the heart of a now former senior attorney for CBS who said she has “no sympathy” for those killed or wounded in Las Vegas simply because people who listen to country music might be Republicans.
The common thread that runs through the heart of each of these is evil. The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Evil exists in the world today and the Bible warns us that “because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). We see a rise in wickedness, not just in this country but around the world.
In Puerto Rico, I saw firsthand the overwhelming destruction caused by Hurricane Maria on the same day the shooting occurred; weary and needy residents there were wondering, too, why their beautiful island had been turned into what looked like a war zone in just a matter of hours.
As the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, I have repeatedly seen the devastation that natural disasters, terrorist acts, wars and other calamities leave in their wake.
Hundreds of thousands killed by an Indonesian tsunami. More in a Japanese tsunami. Thousands murdered in wars in Iraq and South Sudan. Hundreds massacred by terrorists in France and England.
There is simply no denying the active presence of evil in this world. Since the fall of mankind in the Garden and the entrance of sin into the human race, evil, suffering and pain have always marked our existence on this earth.
In the wake of the shootings in Las Vegas, a place where many evils already abound, there was talk of more gun control laws as a solution to this evil. Yet, in places like Chicago that have some of the strictest gun laws in the country, thousands are tragically murdered every year.
The Bible clearly reveals the source, the cause, the driving force behind such heinous acts as the Las Vegas shooting and a million other appalling deeds: it is the wicked heart of man. Sadly, no amount of legislation or regulation can stop the wicked heart from perpetrating wicked deeds.
After the fall of Adam and Eve and the deadly effects of sin, God looked down upon mankind and decided to cleanse the earth, sparing only Noah and his family. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The psalmist declared later (and the Apostle Paul reiterated to the Romans) that “they have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3).
Even creation itself is under the curse of sin. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it … for we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:20, 22). Killer hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters are all part of a material universe that has been adversely affected by sin.
We need look no further than mankind’s rebellion and hostility toward Almighty God as the source of evil. God is never to blame, never the cause of evil itself. Tyrants, murderers, wars, famines, all flow from hearts set on evil, or a creation that is still groaning from the curse of sin.
Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33). In other words, you can expect suffering, you can anticipate painful circumstances; don’t be surprised at fiery ordeals. It’s the bitter result of living in a fallen, sinful world.
But He also said, “But take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The disciple of Jesus Christ, the man or woman who has repented of their sins and trusted Christ as their Savior for the forgiveness of sin, has every reason to remain hopeful and steadfast in the face of evil. Christ has conquered sin. Christ has defeated death. Christ has overcome the evil one, the devil, through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection.
Repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the one essential for living in an evil world. When a tower fell on a group of people during Jesus’ day, He said, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5).
We overcome the harsh suffering and evil of this world by placing our faith in the sovereign, loving and wise hands of our heavenly Father. That is truly the one safe place to be, with our sins forgiven, our hearts transformed, and our sure and steadfast hope that one day we will rest securely forever in the presence of Almighty God.
Only there, in the holy presence of the Lord Jesus Christ will we find perfect peace and the final absence of evil. “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
In the meantime, we should be doing all we can to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has sent more than 300 chaplains to the hurricane-ravaged areas of Texas and Florida where thousands of people have seen their lives turned upside down. Many have lost virtually all of their possessions, and our chaplains are there to share the eternal hope and comfort of a Savior who loves and cares for them in their darkest hour and deepest need. Hundreds have prayed to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord. They may have lost most of their earthly goods, but they are rejoicing that they have gained everlasting life in Jesus.
In Las Vegas, our chaplains have been there ministering to the scarred and emotionally distraught survivors. They put their arms around those who were grieving, prayed with them, and shared the great hope of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Evil never has the last word. That belongs to God, and His Word declares that the “momentary, light affliction” of this present world is producing for us “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Bible verses marked NASB are taken by permission from the New American Standard Bible, ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.