On Wednesday, June 1, 2016, around 10 AM, an engineering student killed his professor, seemingly over a matter of grades, in one of the engineering buildings at UCLA. He then killed himself. Before police could confirm this story, the entire UCLA campus was placed under lockdown in response to the potentially active shooter situation. Having recently graduated and started work, I was not affected by these events, but many of my closest friends were. After hearing about the events during my lunch break (before the details were confirmed), I found myself thinking three main things during the rest of the day that I wanted to share with you.
God is Merciful
This was the first thing that struck me; it’s how I’ve always been trained to respond to tragedy. Let me attach a passage to it:
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
In short, Jesus offers tragedies as a reminder of the brevity of life and the importance of repentance.
Today the question “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?” has particular meaning given the identity of the victim today. The late Professor Klug was known for his Christian faith and shared it openly. We cannot expect that he was particularly deserving of death or tragedy any more than any of ourselves. Any of us could have been in the situation; any of us could have died today. In that way God was merciful to some 40,000 people on the UCLA campus today. All of us deserve death (Romans 6:23), but God continues to let us live.
Each of us then has a continuing opportunity to repent. That opportunity is God’s biggest mercy. I expect, and will be praying, that I will hear of people hearing the gospel for the first time due to the after effects of this shooting. I’m thankful for the large Christian presence at UCLA that can take advantage of this opportunity. God is sovereign and good, and will use even this tragedy to His utmost glory and the benefit of the elect.
Only in Jesus is Joy and Peace
I started a new job yesterday—my first paid full time job. Naturally the events at UCLA were frequent conversation during breaks and lunch time. It was so unnatural for me, growing up in the church, to try to fit in with people who effectively said, “There was a shooting at UCLA! That’s so awful!” and then proceeded with their daily activity. Something felt empty and not right as we continued our work, especially since we have to be exceedingly (almost sickeningly) cheerful and energetic at work. (I work as a reading tutor, mostly for young children.) It felt so fake, especially as I was thinking about the three points I’m writing about in this blog post. It was then that I realized, only Christians can rightly respond to tragedy, because only we have an assured eternal hope, and only we have the ultimate joy, that of the person of Christ Jesus as our savior.
Your Sin Profoundly Affects Other People
The shooter today was a graduate student either upset about grades (as linked to above) or about some grudge over computer code. Either way, we see a student who acted on extreme anger to his own self destruction, the destruction of a second human life, the destruction of the professors family, and the destruction of the peace of a school community around 40,000 on the week before finals. This provides a vivid illustration for how the sin of one man can profoundly affect many, many other people. We never think of our personal idolatry of grades or our grudge over some sort of misunderstanding or our resentment at our lazy coworkers or our pride or our other secret sin as something that hurts other people. But all lusts, all sinful desires, when acted upon produce bigger sins, ultimately leading unto death.
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
As Jesus’ discussions in Matthew 5 make abundantly clear, God cares about our hearts, and our inward sins are just as disgusting before God as our outward ones. What comes out of a man’s heart is what pollutes him. And it is this pollution that can have consequences for other people.
Whenever I see one person’s sin affecting other people I remember two other sins however: the first human sin, that affected all of mankind, and the greatest human sin, that provided salvation for all mankind.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
When Adam sinned, all of us were profoundly affected. The world was cursed. Each of us was corrupted in our natures. All of us sinned in Adam. No matter how profound the effects of today’s shooter on other people were, that profundity pales in comparison to that of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin affected every man who has lived, is living, and ever will live.
When Jesus, the sinless incarnation of God, however, was unjustly executed as a criminal, bearing crucifixion, and far worse bore the weight of God’s wrath for our sins while hanging there on that cross, a far, far greater sin was committed. That sin, that injustice is far more profound than any injustice that has ever come out of a gun or ever will come out of a gun or ever possibly could come out of a gun. Jesus Christ became sin. The sinless God of very God bore the punishment of a human eternity in hell. And that sin, that injustice, affects all of us too. It is that sin that provides our atonement. It is in that injustice that God provides righteousness for the elect. It is in the tragedy of the cross that the human race is redeemed, and we are given a hope to escape from our sin, and thereby stop profoundly harming our fellow man.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.