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On the Death—and Life—of Innocent Children
Image: IBL / Rex / AP
On the Death—and Life—of Innocent Children

A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted,
because they are no more." (Matt. 2:18, ESV)

We live in a world where Rachel weeps for her children. Where mothers wail and fathers curse because their children are no more. Where friends go mute, and bloodied children stand shocked, and a nation mourns, and a President weeps—for 20 innocent children in Connecticut.

One wants to say, "It will be okay. Order will be restored. We'll do something about this, so that it will never happen again." One wants to say this, but we know that it is not okay, that the restored order will be broken again; sadly, it will happen again.

This is why our hearts froze when we heard the news. Not only could it have happened here, but someday it may very well happen here. That's because we've seen it happen so often, going way back. It happened in biblical times at least twice, once after the birth of Moses, and once at the birth of our Lord. Sad to say in this respect, the Bible continues to be a very relevant book.

And not just as a mirror of tragedy, but also as a candle in the darkness. In both biblical stories, hope had been born long before the sword was put to the neck of the first baby. In the one case, liberation from slavery was already on the march. In the other, liberation from death. It seems to be God's way of saying, "While the stench of death overwhelms you, the fragrance of life is already wafting up. It may look like I am absent, but I have been with you all along. I have prepared a redeemer even before you lost hope for a redeemer."

The Innocent One

We stand aghast at the loss of innocence. Twenty children ages 6 and 7 have died today, at the hands of a man mad with rage, who may not have known what he was doing. There is something especially galling about the innocent being killed. Like the 1940s French Jewish children, boxed up in train cars and shipped off to Auschwitz at the hands of another man filled with rage. It is a mystery why God allows the innocent to suffer. But he does.

Like the one whose innocence was like no other's. One innocent and holy and precious to the Father, so special it is said that they were one, like no other father and son are one. One in essence, theologians tell us. You would have thought that the Power and the Glory would have stepped in with thunderbolts when the world conspired to kill his Innocent One. But this God did not do anything then either. And the Son did not rage at the cruel injustice and the waste of a good life at the hands of evil men. All he could seem to say was a prayer that his murderers, who he said did not know what they were doing, be forgiven.

Such an odd and strange pair, this Father and Son. The one giving up innocence into the hands of evil. The other forgiving evil men as if—well, as if love really is the ultimate reality of the universe.

Those closest to that ancient murder had no idea what God was up to. But we now note that as he breathed his last and said, "It is finished," he began his descent into the darkest place in the universe, where thieves and liars, rapists and murderers—even of children—wail and gnash their teeth. And in that place of unimaginable horror, he proclaimed release to the captives. We don't know exactly what happened there, but other biblical verses make me think that to as many as did receive him, he gave the right to be called the children of God (John 1:12).

And the Innocent One wasn't done—far from it. He looked at mad humanity and bloody death and said, Enough is enough. Three days after the world had done its dirtiest work on the most innocent of all, he rolled back the stone and emerged from the grave (smiling, I like to think), as if to say that the death of the innocent is not the last word. Not even close.

Mark Galli is editor of Christianity Today.

Postscript: I'd be interested what biblical passages readers find most enlightening and comforting in times such as these. Share those in the comments section, or on CT's Facebook page.

SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Galli is editor of Christianity Today and author of God Wins, Chaos and Grace, A Great and Terrible Love, Jesus Mean and Wild, Francis of Assisi and His World, and other books.
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On the Death—and Life—of Innocent Children