When God’s Gift of Free Will is Abused

As humans, we have been lovingly created by God. One of the ways God has expressed his love to us is by giving us a free will. We have the power to choose our own course in life. Most of the time, the gift of free will works out well. However, every so often that gift erupts into a horrific tragedy, as it did this past Valentine’s Day when a 19-year-old individual opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, leaving fourteen students and three faculty members dead. How could a good and loving God let this happen?

It happened because God loved us so much that he gave us a free will. Most, like Chicago first baseman Anthony Rizzo, use their freedom for good. Anthony Rizzo uses his free will to give millions of dollars and untold hours of his time to help people suffering from cancer; Anthony is himself a cancer survivor as well as a 2007 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Tragically, others use their gift of a free will to commit unspeakable crimes against humanity. When such tragedies strike, some say, “It just must have been their time.” I can’t tell you how appalling I find that theology. Consider Nicholas Dworet, a 17-year-old senior and the captain of his swim team at Stoneman Douglas. Nick had committed to swim on an athletic scholarship to the University of Indianapolis; he had hoped to swim at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Instead, he was laid to rest on Wednesday, February 21, one of the gunman’s 17 victims.

I do not believe it was God’s will for Nick Dworet to die at the age of 17; I’d rather believe that it was God’s will for him to die of natural causes 60 or more years from now. But sadly, God’s will was thwarted because one person chose to use his gift of free will for evil purposes.

So where was God last February 14? I believe that God was right there during the carnage at Stoneman Douglas High School, giving courage to the frightened and guiding many to safety. God was in the courage of men like assistant football coach Aaron Feis who threw himself in front of students, shielding them from the onslaught of bullets, laying down his own life for others. And God was right there to receive those who died into his everlasting arms. And just as Christ wept at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11:35, he wept with Nick’s family and friends at his funeral.

After the shooting, I saw a Facebook post urging readers, “If you see something, say something.” One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Parkland shooting was that authorities were tipped off multiple times about the danger posed by the gunman; still, the shooter was able to make a name for himself as one of the worst mass killers in US history.

You’ll notice I’ve not named the shooter. I believe one way that society can stem the tide of such tragedies would be for media to covenant together and refuse to release the names and the pictures of shooters like the one who terrorized Parkland. Stricter gun laws may very well help, but as long as our society—fueled by our media—insists on making these shooters famous—or infamous—I’m afraid we’ll see more shootings like this one. I pray I’m wrong. But I also pray that our media outlets would forever embargo the names and pictures of such shooters, thereby taking away from them the promise of infamy.

Please join me in prayer,

Pastor Dave

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