Some of my greatest mistakes have been the result of acting out of fear. I have been afraid of being made to look foolish, of being held in contempt, of being thought stupid or unimportant, and spoke arrogantly and rashly in order to impress people, and have paid the price. I have feared the opinions of others and spent money on things that I did not need. I have feared missing out on good times and wasted my time in foolish entertainment.
Different people fear different things. We fear loss of physical safety, loss of health, loss of relationships and many other things. A great deal of sin happens because of fear; in a way, sometimes I think all sin is committed because of fear. And evil people constantly play on the fears of other people to manipulate and control them.
Yesterday a horrible thing happened, an incomprehensible thing. A 20 year old man walked into an elementary school and shot a classroom full of kindergarten students to death. Such a thing hits us on a most fundamental level; it is an abomination that such things could happen. The young man did not appear to have a criminal record, was not an obviously identifiable threat. It is unbearable to think that we live in a world where such things can happen at any time, in any place.
The ancient Israelites lived in a small country surrounded by much larger and stronger neighbors. There were the Egyptians to the south and the Syrians, Assyrians or Babylonians to the north, neighbors which were at best unreliable friends and more often hostile threats. But God told them they had nothing to fear. They had merely to trust Him, and He would always keep them safe. But they did not trust God. They looked to various schemes to save them. They would make alliances with one of these neighbors to protect them from the others; they would amass gold and silver and standing armies as best they could; they would believe that the gods of their stronger neighbors were the source of their strength and prosperity and worship those gods alongside Jehovah. They would break God’s law in the pursuit of safety and security because they did not trust God.
This was the very first temptation that the devil used on Eve. God had made them to be like Him. But Satan said that God told them not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because God knew that if they did, they would be like gods, knowing good and evil. But they already knew good and evil– good was following God’s laws and commandments, trusting Him for all good. Evil was disobeying God’s law and seeking our good apart from Him. It was the very existence of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that taught them that. So the devil tricked them into thinking that God was holding out on them, taught them to fear that there was some good thing they could have if only they went their own way. And when they listened to Satan- they gained nothing and they lost everything.
This is always the temptation. We fear that God’s holding out on us, that there’s some good thing we can have if only we seek it ourselves. A man in an unhappy marriage thinks that if only he sleeps with his coworker he will finally have happiness. It’s always a lie. The man always ends up worse. Israel thought that by their schemes they would be safer- but the opposite was true. It was their very alliances and foreign entanglements that ended up being their ruin. All good things are God’s to give, and we will never have any good thing without God’s blessing. He may give the rebel temporary enjoyment of His good gifts as a testimony to His goodness, but even that grace only ends up leaving the man with no excuse for refusing God’s goodness.
Whenever a tragedy like the Sandy Hook shooting happens, we will once again see the familiar specter of charlatans and evil men playing on our fear and offering us false hope. God’s word gives a man the right to protect himself from violence, and only an evil man with evil desires would ever take that away from him. Yet many in government, with a vested interest to make us as dependent on them and their false promises as they can, promise that if only we give up our own ability to protect ourselves, that they will protect us from the evil in the world. But they cannot. There is evil in the world because God put it there, to punish men for their sin and rebellion. There is no protection from the evil in the world except from God. When a politician comes on television and promises that if only I support his plan, he will solve a problem that is fundamental to human nature, you can be assured that such a man is a liar and a charlatan, who is only playing on your fears to exploit and oppress you for his own ends.
The solution to things like school shootings is not more laws against guns, more cops, more metal detectors, more education, more bureaucrats and social scientists and mental health professionals who don’t even believe in the existence of the soul. The shooter yesterday already broke several laws. What makes anyone think he would have been restrained by more laws? And it’s not to arm teachers, though disarming them hasn’t made anyone safer. People have a God-given right to protect themselves and their loved ones, and though self defense is no ultimate solution to anything, neither is taking away that right.
The solution to school shootings, and to all evil in the world, is to trust God and to trust the solution which God has provided. He sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to earth to deliver His people from this evil world. We sing a Christmas carol that says, “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.” Jesus frees us from fear. He is the perfect king who will sit on the throne forever. He even now governs all things for the good of His people. We never have to fear anything again, as long as we love and fear Him. Even when a terrible thing like yesterday’s shooting happens, we can know that Jesus is king, and He is working all things according to His plan. He has been given all power, He will protect the poor from the evil oppressor, and He will achieve salvation for all who put their trust in Him.
He told His disciples, when they were wondering about the meaning of a tragedy, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And this is the real lesson of the Sandy Hook shooting, whatever the charlatans tell you. The real lesson is that the world lies under a curse, and that such things are only the foreshadowings of what everyone’s fate will be unless we bow to the savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Without Christ, we have no choice but to live in fear, to be enslaved by that fear, to live eternity consumed and tormented in terror of a creation that is our enemy. But when we fear Christ, we are free from all other fear. We need fear nothing when we know that our savior, the strength and consolation of His people, has come, and has won the battle against all our enemies.