Workplace Shootings, Terror, and Overcoming Evil1
Eds. note: the following are some words that were read during our worship service yesterday about the recent shooting here in Central Florida and acts of terror in London. Several have asked that we post them, and so here they are.
This past Tuesday in a bar in Central Florida, at 5:05 P.M., all the patrons looked towards the entrance. The door didn’t open. This was noteworthy because it was the first Tuesday for as long as anyone in the bar could remember where at that exact time, Robert Snyder didn’t walk in the door. He couldn’t; he had been murdered the day before at his workplace by a coward.
Last week, at a bar in London, England, nobody was looking at the front entrance. That door, however, did open, and into the bar came three cowards, driven by the same deranged lunacy and lunatic that drove the killer in Central Florida.
These bars are not so different. In both, there existed community, solidarity, friendship, arguments, life. In both, people drink the Devil’s whiskey and discuss the Lord’s grace. In both, there are contradictions and absurdities and all the little complications of living in a world of breathtaking beauty and unimaginable evil. Both were filled by people who, while from different countries and of different ethnicities, all displayed the glory of the living God merely by existing. The evil of murder is that an attack on image-bearers is an attack on God himself, and such attacks do not go unavenged. Against him and him alone do we sin, and vengeance is His alone.
Robert Snyder was 69 years old; he was a father, a husband, a pool player, an image-bearer. He was quiet, solid, consistent, and according to many who knew him, was never heard expressing a cross word or an angry thought. He showed up at the same time, played on the same table, drank the same beer, talked softly, smiled a lot, and made everyone in the pool hall a little bit happier simply by being there. On Friday night, after our own Jaime Herron told him she would see him Tuesday at 5 to play -- just as she had done every Tuesday for the better part of a year -- he hugged her and responded “Don’t stand me up.” On Monday, evil itself caused Old Man Bob to stand Jaime up.
How do we respond to such evil? How do we respond to the consequences of a bite from an apple so long ago? How do we respond to terror, to perversion, to abuse, to a world groaning as if in childbirth because of man’s capacity for atrocity? Is it enough to utter learned catchphrases, which, however true they may be, seem to ring hollow in the face of sadness? God is greater; He is Sovereign; He will ultimately win; evil will be defeated, we prevail with the power of forgiveness and love knowing we have been forgiven etc. etc.? Yes -- but does that comfort now? Such platitudes, however true, will not, after all, mean that Robert Snyder will be calling his pocket tomorrow.
The fact of the matter is that we often have neither the inclination nor the ability to respond effectively to evil. There has only been One who has been able to stare at the monsters and the dragons and known exactly what to do. And He is the reason that we are able to admit that we don’t have the right words or right thinking when faced with such evil; our only option is to exclaim with Dostoevsky that there is a Being who knows exactly what to do when faced with such evil, and on Him is built the edifice, and it is to Him we cry aloud, 'Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed!'
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