Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of the latest tragic mass shooting. At least nine people were killed and others wounded at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, on October 1 when Christopher Harper Mercy opened fire on a classroom. According to reports from several victims, Harper Mercy specifically targeted Christians in his attack: “the shooter then burst into the room and ordered students to get on the ground, before asking people to stand up and state their religion. He then began firing.” Another report says, “[He started] asking people one by one what their religion was. ‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them, and if you’re a Christian, stand up. And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you are going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them.” Investigators also discovered that “online accounts linked to the shooter expressed disdain for organized religion.”
This horrible tragedy and the many other terrible events that happen in our world each day will surely leave many asking how a good God could’ve created a world filled with such suffering, pain, and sadness. As Christians we need to be prepared to lovingly and compassionately answer these questions while pointing out the hope of the gospel. Genesis tells us that God originally created a world free from death and suffering, a world that was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But sin changed everything. Adam and Eve willfully chose to rebel against God and the punishment for their sin was death (Genesis 2:17). Because of sin—their sin and ours—death is a part of our world (Romans 5:12). These tragedies happen because of sin and they highlight how desperately we need a Savior.
You see, we can have hope—even in the midst of tragedy—because of what Jesus Christ has done. Jesus stepped into history and died on the Cross, taking our penalty, death, upon Himself. That’s why Paul can say, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). We no longer have to pay the penalty we deserve because of our sin because Jesus took it for us. But He didn't stay dead. He rose from the dead, thus defeating death. And now He offers salvation and eternity in heaven as a free gift to those who will repent of their sin and trust in Him.
The last words of some of the victims were reportedly, “Yes, I am a Christian.” The hashtag #YesImaChristian is currently trending on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
For more on a biblical perspective on death and suffering, please see Why Does God’s Creation Include Death and Suffering?
I encourage you to be in prayer for the family and friends of those killed or injured in this horrific attack. Pray for God’s comfort and that, even in the midst of all the pain and sorrow, the gospel will spread.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.