Thursday, June 18, 2015

Where is God in all of this?

And so Charleston, South Carolina is plunged into turmoil again.

Dylann Roof, 21, from Columbia, South Carolina had received a .45 caliber pistol from his dad for his 21st birthday and apparently decided to use it to open fire in a church killing 9 people.   He showed up at Wednesday Night Bible Study asking for the Pastor and sat next to him for an hour before shooting into the group and leaving the scene.  

Sources at the scene said that Roof pulled the gun saying, "I have to do it . . . you rape our women and you are taking over our country and you have to go."  Cited in this article by The New York Times.    

Another killing at the hands of a white man only intensifies the difficulty of race relations in this town.  Just two months ago in North Charleston Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by police.  This sparked outrage and protests . . . and so here we are again with more murder at the hands of a white gunman.  No doubt there will be a lot of discussion about the politics of race and perhaps the availability of guns to those that are mentally unstable.  For me, the issue is bigger than race or guns.  The real question is "God, why are you allowing this?"

Why couldn't God have just jammed the gun?  Make the gun blow up in his face?  Why sit back and allow so much carnage . . .  to a bunch of people in (of all places) a church?

This is the kind of thing that can slowly erode one's faith in God to act and do the right thing.  It seems more reasonable that if God really loves people he would save them at their time of need.  

But as with all things, my gut tells me to go to Jesus about this . . . and this is what I find:

Luke 13:1-5
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  And Jesus said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”


Jesus had a way of getting right to the point.  He drew from the headlines of his day to show that what happens at the hands of sinful people is not necessarily a reflection of God's will.

See, the Governor at the time wanted to finance a sorely needed water supply project and he needed money from the Jewish temple treasury.  Some Galileans were not so happy about where the money was coming from.  In the midst of one of their protests, Roman guards (dressed like protesters) threw off their cloaks and massacred the crowd.  The guards then went in and took the money from the Temple.  

Didn't make any sense.  God, where were you?  Over time, those murdered were seen as martyrs.

Then, when the project was being constructed a water tower fell on the Jewish workers as they worked.  Some looked at this as the judgement of God for cooperating with the Romans and their work project.  Again, there was an attempt by onlookers to make some kind of sense out of it.  Perhaps God is judging those from making a profit off the death of the Galilean protesters.  

So Jesus says, "nope, don't connect the two."  Why?  Because when humans sin and bring destruction and chaos (and murder and heartache) we have no one left to blame but our own sinfulness.  These are our choices.  These are our consequences.  God didn't teach Roof to hate someone for the color of their skin.  That was human.  God didn't abdicate his responsibility to make sure handguns weren't glorified in video games and nightly entertainment.  That was human.  To head down the road of sin as far as we have and then look at its consequences and pin them on God is disingenuous.  Our human condition means that even innocent people who go to a Bible study on a Wednesday night suffer at the hands of evil.  As humans, we experience the fruit of our labor - guilty or innocent.  When sin reigns, heartbreak is the norm.

That is why our faith is a faith of hope . . . because it will not always be this way.  The fact that junk like this goes on reminds us that the day of grace is still here.  God still shows mercy even to those considering murder.  But there will be a time in which it all ends and days like today will be a memory hard to recall.    

"and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” - Rev 21:4

Hard to wait for, but worth the wait.

P.S. - if you are encouraged by the posts on this blog, I want to invite you to sign up for a week of Reasons to Believe:

Starting June 22nd, you can receive once a day a Reason to Believe (for 7 days) in your inbox if you subscribe above.  Give me your email and I can give you a few down-to-Earth and relatable Reasons to Believe to share with your friends and co-workers.  Could make for some pretty cool conversations.

June 22nd-29th Reasons to Believe.

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