Around 10:30 a.m., this past October 1st the Roseburg, Oregon Police Department began receiving calls about a shooting in progress on the Umpqua Community College campus. A 26-year-old madman had begun a bloody rampage and managed to kill nine people and wound several more, before a shootout with police ended the violence.
Another community in our nation is left reeling in shock and grief because an angry young man thought the world owed him a better life, and thought killing as many innocent people as he could before being killed himself would somehow settle the score.
We are left trying to answer the question why such senseless tragedies happen. Indeed, evil is so profoundly so because it is senseless. If evil made some sense we might find something good in it, but its senselessness leaves it without merit.
During the melee the murderer was charged by an unarmed student in an effort to end the violence. Though shot seven times and finally incapacitated by his wounds, this army veteran survived, but his heroic intervention interrupted the carnage and gave police a chance to respond and engage the suspect and end the shooting spree. The time it took for the gunman to stop this hero probably spared the lives of others he would have killed.
What causes a madman to kill innocent people he does not know, or another to risk his life for the same?
The Scriptures teach that God “created man in His own image,” Genesis 1:27, but then man transgressed the only command he was given and now “all have sinned,” Romans 3:23. Though created in the image of God that image has been tainted by our fallen sin nature. We have a divine image to live up to, and a nature that inclines us to do evil. We may never fully know why one chooses to do nobly, and another chooses to do wickedly, but we will be held responsible for our decisions and actions. As our Father warned Cain “sin is couching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it,” Genesis 4:7.
The several survivors said the shooter is reported to have asked a number of his victims if they were Christians and when they answered in the affirmative he is claimed to have said, “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.” Then a bullet from the gunman ushered them into the presence of their Savior forever and an eternity of everlasting joy.
Within seconds, a bullet would also usher the murderer from this life and into the next. He may not have thought about it or planned on it, but he too met God that day. We read, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27. I do not think that meeting was as cordial as the others, nor as long.