Sunday, December 21, 2008

Making Sense of the Senseless

The recent tragedy in Mumbai, India reminds us of the terrible potential for evil in the human heart. That ten young men could be induced to kill men, women, and children in a deliberate attempt to create terror and instability, seems incomprehensible, particularly to us who live in the relative peace and security of the West. Yet kill they did and with a vengeance for the perceived crimes of the Christians, Jews, and Hindus.

And that brings us to the irony of it all. The terrorists claim that their actions are justified by the terrible injustices their people have endured whether during the Crusades, the era of colonialism, the imposition of the state of Israel upon Arab Palestine, the battles over Kashmir, and the recent wars in Iraq and Afganistan. They have a long list of offenses that are used to fuel their rage against the infidels. These perceived injustices do more than fuel anger, they enable a sense of moral outrage, and allowed these young men to believe they were serving God through the slaughter of innocents.

It seems to me there are two important implications to be taken from this tragedy. First, we see again that evil is a corruption or distortion of the good. That the moral indignation connected to injustice could be used to bring about the murder of over 140 people shows the depravity and deceitfulness of sin. This crime goes further, it shows that evil is diabolical and demonic. As Jesus said, "The Thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill, and destroy." (John 10: 10) There is a capacity for evil and violence shown here that transcends nature, animals kill to satisfy hunger, men kill to satisfy hatred or worse. Thus, while human beings possess conscience and a moral sense, they also demonstrate the capacity for cruelty, heartlessness, and unspeakable violence. In the end, we see man's spiritual nature both in our connection to the moral and holy and in our connection to the cruel and the diabolical.

The second implication, for me, is the tragic connection of these actions to religious belief. God is love, His ultimate desire is a world where "They will beat their swords into plowshares." (Isaiah 2:4) He sent His Son into the world to break the power of sin within the human heart. How then can He be blamed as the inspiration for these unspeakable actions in India? It really shows the importance of theology; what you believe about God; His nature and character. When these young men cried out, "God is great!" while spraying bullets toward their victims, they did not have in mind the God revealed in the Old and New Testament. When John wrote that "God so loved the world" (John 3:16), he was speaking of the entire world; the men of "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" of Revelations 7:9. God, as revealed in the Bible, has extended His love to Jew and Gentile, to Christian and non-Christian, to the religious and the irreligious, and even to muslims and infidels. These events show how important it is for us to not just believe "in" God, but to believe the right things about God.

One final irony in all of this, is that the event that compelled Jesus to request that God "glorify" (demonstrate its greatness) His name, and that invoked the response, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again." (John 12:28) was the Cross. In Jesus' death for our sins do we see most clearly and powerfully the greatness of God. He truly is the God who longs to save, who longs to set the captives free from something as powerful and diabolical as sin. It was Jesus and His sacrifice that more than any other thing declares for all the world to hear that "God is Great!" In this we see again the wonder of the Gospel, that the greatness of God and indeed the justice of God is revealed in the Lamb of God, slain to rescue us from sin. This Christmas may we celebrate the greatness of God, marveling that this God entered our world to rescue its inhabitants from the power of evil and the evil one.

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