And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
About 10 miles from my house, a well educated, intelligent young man went to a crowded movie theater, set off some tear gas, and shot 70 people, killing 12. While no one in my personal circle was hurt, I know people who know people who were hurt. The shocking thing is that it could have been any theater; the people shot could have been my friends, my family, even me. How do we respond to a situation like this?
How can a loving God allow evil in the world?
Perhaps you know someone who has asked this question. Perhaps you’ve asked it yourself. In my arrogance, I have an answer, but I know it won’t be satisfying. This is largely because the question is malformed.
Couldn’t God have stopped this man from killing those people? Of course he could. So if he could, and did not, then is he really loving? I mean, look at all the suffering and tragedy. To have in your hands the power to prevent the senseless bloodshed and suffering and fail to act is monstrous. So clearly, God (if he exists), cannot be loving. Or else, he can’t be all-powerful. In any event, I’m better off on my own. Who needs that God anyway?
The simple answer to the question is that a loving God allows people to make their own decisions, including the decision to reject him, or to accept his mercy and forgiveness through grace. In his love, he allows each one of us to set the course of our lives and to walk in the responsibility of our decisions. This means allowing James Holmes to shoot and kill unsuspecting moviegoers. It also means allowing you and me to walk in our sins as well.
If God were to prevent evil people from doing evil, then who among us could exercise free will? It’s always easy to compare yourself to some heinous criminal and pronounce yourself “good”. But who decides which sins must be prevented and which should be permitted? Don’t let Mr. Holmes kill people, but let me wallow in my hatred. Don’t let Bernie Madoff steal billions of other people’s money, but let me cheat (just a little) on my taxes.