On Thursday, July 23, 2015, in the beautiful city of Lafayette, Louisiana, evil did what evil does. Actually, evil had been hard at work weeks, months or even years before that fateful Thursday. Somewhere at some time, evil crept stealthily into the mind of a broken man. Evil then stalked him, waiting for just the perfect moment to make its ambitious move.
Finally, on a gorgeous day in a Lafayette motel, evil saw the opening it had been looking for. With seductive glee, evil whispered into the ear of a desperate man and convinced him to carry out a diabolical plan. “Go to a local theater, buy a ticket to a movie, and oh yeah, don’t forget to take your gun. When you go into the theater, sit near the back. Wait until the movie has reached out and grabbed the audience, then stand up and start shooting people. It doesn’t matter that those people are innocent. As a matter of fact, that’s even better,” evil says. “That will enhance my reputation even more.”
“And,” evil continues, “you can get away with it. Park your car near an exit. Then in the confusion caused by your grand surprise, mix with the crowd and make your escape. You’ll be famous and you’ll finally get some degree of satisfaction that somebody is finally paying for all the bad things people have done to you.”
So the man does as evil commands. He stands in line with innocent people, young and old, who are just out on a hot summer Thursday to enjoy a movie and maybe some popcorn and a cola. He then makes his way to Theater 14, finds a seat near the back, checks to make sure his gun is still where he put it, and sits down. He watches as about a hundred people find there places. There’s lively chatter and laughter in an atmosphere punctuated by low lights and the smell of buttered popcorn.
The man is probably nervous as he thinks about what he is about to do, but the voice of evil comforts him by telling him he’s doing the right thing. After all, people like those he was sitting with were responsible for his misery. Somebody needed to pay.
The movie starts and the man waits for the moment. Finally, twenty minutes or so in, evil whispers, “Now!” Like a robot, the man stands and starts shooting. One, two, three shots ring out and now he loses all control. He keeps pulling the trigger and watches as a chaotic scene unfolds in front of him.
When its all said and done, two beautiful young women are dead and many others are wounded. Seeing that evil had lied to him about escaping, the man turns the gun on himself, pulls the trigger for a final time, and just like that, its done. Evil grins and mutters, “Mission accomplished.”
How should we respond to heinous events such as this one that occurred in my hometown? Our initial reaction is of course, disbelief. How could this happen, not just in Lafayette, but anywhere? After the initial shock, then comes the anger. This is where we must be careful. In our pursuit of justice, we often lose sight of the real enemy. We naturally think things like, “The killer deserved to die.” And certainly, he did deserve to pay for his actions. We also must not, (and we will not), forget the innocent victims and their heartbroken families.
The real villain here though is not the man who pulled the trigger. The gun is not the villain either. If we blame the gun, we also must blame the car that took him to the theater, the motel that allowed him to rest and scheme, and the contractor who built the theater.
No, the real villain is the culture of evil that was born when the first person chose to not do good. God did not create evil as some would suggest. Everything He created was “good.” Evil is simply the absence of good and our world has created an atmosphere where, even though its the way of cowards, self-gratification is more easily attained by choosing to shun good even though it may come at the expense of someone else’s success or even their life.
So, is there hope? Evil seems to be winning. It seems to be winning with terrorism. It seems to be winning with poverty, hunger and politics. I believe good will eventually prevail. As Christians we must never forget the promises God has made to His people.
Ps 37:7 says, “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.” NLT
Because we have and believe God, the proper response to tragedies like this should reflect our faith in His Word. While we must abhor evil, we cannot forget that our purpose on earth is to preach the Gospel, especially in times like these. While we cannot give people faith, we can give them hope and hope is where faith is formed.
So, if evil exists only in the absence of good, our comeback to evil should be a response of good. Let the volume of good be louder than the volume of evil. You see, darkness does not chase away the light, light defeats darkness. Darkness does not exist, only an absence of light.
So our response to the evil, while including mourning with those who suffered injury and loss, will be with good. We will love those who persecute us. We will pray for those who hurt us. We will spread the hope of Jesus Christ.
The events of July 23 should serve to unite us. No matter our ethnicity, culture, religion or lifestyle, we have a common purpose and that is to combat evil. So evil, we serve notice to you. Our troops are deploying, but we are not coming with knives, guns or civil disobedience. We are coming in the name of what is right and good and in case you haven’t noticed, good always prevails in the end.
To the people of Lafayette, God is not mad at you. He loves you. He has a plan, it’s brilliant and we are all in it. Of course, His plan did not include the murder of innocent people, but in view of the fact that someone chose to not do good, God is present and ready to help the suffering cope with their loss. He will use present circumstances to unite us in cause and spirit and if we allow, He will help us defeat the spirit of evil that is out to destroy us all.
To the injured, and to the families of Jillian Johnson and Mayci Breaux, though we cannot fully grasp the depth of your grief, our hearts are broken for you. We are praying for you and we know God will bring the comfort that only He can give.
To the family of the killer, John Houser, we pray also for you. May the grace and mercy of God be with you.
And, to Westboro Baptist Church, if you decide to visit our beautiful city, do not think that just because we are a Happy City that we will just lay down and let you spew your hate. We will rise up, but our rising up will be with the banner of God’s love and mercy and His unbounded grace. We will drown you out and send you back to your hole in the ground with your tails tucked. Know this!