When You Can’t Kill God – Thoughts on Sutherland Springs

By Paul Koch

The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’” – Genesis 4:6-7

Like many of you, I slowly heard the reports as they trickled in last Sunday about the slaughter of innocent people gathered for worship in a small Texas town whose name we had never known and now will never forget. My reaction was shockingly similar to how I reacted to the Vegas shootings just five weeks prior. I was saddened, confused, and frustrated. I could already envision how the political parties would be lining up on this or that side of the issue to use the tragedy to move legislation or condemn their political enemies. But through it all, I found myself lost in thoughts of what it must take do commit such an act.

The simple answers never seem to fit. Revenge, depression, despair, loneliness—how can any of that explain the planning and executing of such an act? Perhaps they get us to the first shot, to the moment it begins. But to explain the continuation of the action, the pausing only to reload, these simple answers seem completely inadequate. Truly it is a visible reminder of the existence of evil; it is a horrifying image of the monstrosity that lurks within creature enslaved to sin, death, and the power of the devil. But what brings it from an inner turmoil to external actions is something beyond what our legislators and politicians can fathom.

I think this is an ancient problem. It is not a problem that begins with our neighbor, with those going to worship on a Sunday morning or attending a concert in Las Vegas. It isn’t about gun legislation or defending the Bill of Rights. The problem is rooted in our dealing with God himself, and this problem has its roots all the way back in the story of Cain and Abel.

We know that Cain and his little brother Abel (the first people with belly buttons) each brought their offerings to God. Cain from the fruit of the ground, for he was a farmer, and Abel the firstborn of his flock and the fat portion thereof, for he was a shepherd. We read that “the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” We are not told why. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Cain’s offering was not recognized by God, and so he is angry. Not just a little upset. His whole being seems to be rejected by God, which threatens his very identity, and he is pissed. Now God encourages him to do right, to be cautious because sin is seeking to destroy him, but there is no repentance in Cain, no turning from his self-justification. He hates God, who rejected his offering, and he would kill him if he could.

But of course, Cain cannot get ahold of God to put him to death. So, what does Cain do? In his wrath, in his desire to justify himself, he lashes out at what God loves: those who still sing his praise and confess his blessings in their lives. He murders his brother.

This is what I see in the tragedy in Texas. It wasn’t getting even with this or that person but with God. It was one who rejected God, despised him, and sought to live as his own god. And when his life fell apart, when he went from one failure to the next, when his very best was still unsatisfactory, his anger grew to want to destroy that which he could never destroy, the Almighty himself. So like Cain, he turned to destroy what he could get ahold of. He wasn’t seeking to punish his ex-wife or in-laws but the God he rejected, by killing what God loved.

I think this is at least attempts to get at the magnitude of the anger and hatred of such an act. These monstrous deeds are not the actions of one who “just snapped” but the calculated work of one who would kill God.

So, we can have arguments about gun-control laws, and we can debate how best to protect a group of Christians worshipping on a Sunday morning or whether a hotel was negligent in its protection of a concert venue. But in the end, such conversations are not even close to the heart of the issue. We must deal with man’s struggle with God himself, a God who will call out our sin and leave us nowhere to hide. A God who remains though his creatures reject him. A God we cannot kill.

So, the only real answer to this problem is the one God himself gives. And it comes when God allows himself to die, to be murdered at the hands of his own creatures. In the death of God made flesh, we have the promise of life. In the sacrifice of the only Begotten Son of God lies a hope that stretches beyond this vale of tears.

The only solution to the madness of Cain is the proclamation of salvation in Christ alone.