Our little corner of the world has been rocked recently by the news of two teenage girls who were murdered in the woods near Delphi, Indiana. It’s a chilling story that continues to occupy the center of attention for local news outlets (and has been picked up by a few national outlets, as well).
In tragic times like this, communities always seem to come together. They mourn. They support. They give. But perhaps, more than anything else, they talk. Whether it’s on social media or at the office water cooler, it’s not hard to find yourself in a conversation about these matters.
As a Christian, how can you make the most of those conversations? How can you point the people around you to truth? In many cases, your best bet will be simply to listen, grieve, and pray. But in some cases, you’ll have an open door to speak. And when that time comes, I’d encourage you to consider these five relevant themes that may turn your conversation into a redemptive one.
1. The reality of evil. Many of our friends and neighbors avoid the category of “evil.” They prefer to think about humans as mostly good people who simply need to have their inner virtue nurtured and encouraged. Yet such a rosy anthropology shows its cracks at a time like this. It just doesn’t cut it. And it’s precisely here that the Christian understanding of human wickedness proves to be so relevant. There is real evil in this world, because there is a real Evil One hell-bent on destruction. The Christian worldview is reasonable in large part because it accounts for humanity’s most gruesome acts.
2. The omniscience of God. If you’re like me, you’ve stared at the grainy photo of the Delphi murder suspect for a long time, wondering, “Who is this guy? What was he thinking?” We may never know the answers to these questions. But God does. He knows the man in that picture, and he knows everything he’s ever done. Whatever horrors took place in the woods a few weeks ago, God saw them all. We can take comfort in knowing that every crime has at least one (all-knowing) witness.
3. The certainty of justice. I hope the murderer in this case gets caught and punished to the full extent of the law. The blood of those two innocent girls cries out for no less. But I realize that this may not happen. The murderer may successfully evade the authorities for the rest of his life. He may even commit such crimes again. But as Christians, we know that in the end, justice will prevail. As it says in Ecclesiastes 12:14, “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
4. The comfort of the gospel. Even if you don’t know the victims personally, a tragedy like this can bring true grief and genuine sadness. But as Christians, we have good news to share with those around us who are hurting: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). The nearness and salvation in this verse are both made possible by Jesus Christ, who was broken and crushed on our behalf. Yes, we will still grieve and mourn. But in such valleys, the God of the gospel is present.
5. The powerlessness of death. A tragedy like this forces us to confront the brevity of life. Whether it’s a violent criminal, a hidden disease, or a freak accident, death can snatch us at any time. But as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As much as we might like to, we can’t bring back those whose lives have been cut short. But God can. And he will. It doesn’t matter how or when your life comes to an end, if your hope is in Christ, you have nothing to fear from the sting of death.
Now don’t misunderstand me here; the last thing our community needs is a bunch of self-righteous know-it-alls to sit them down and preach to them every time the opportunity presents itself. But if we engage these themes with compassionate hearts and winsome spirits, I believe that we’ll have an opportunity to point our friends to truth in a time of terrible tragedy.