Where is God? Terrorism and us.

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The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

[Author’s note: I originally wrote this piece about the Charleston church shooting last year, but in light of recent events I am adapting it for use in the aftermath of yesterday’s terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium.]

Even as we grieve the horrific violence last year in Charleston and now in Brussels, a perusal of the homepage of our local newspaper, the Fresno Bee,  shows multiple shootings and a murdered woman’s remains found buried on farmland.

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As a Christian, I understand that the role of believers is to emulate Jesus and to come alongside those who suffer, those who mourn.

However, even before the facts are confirmed, before the victim’s names are released, before we have any chance to sort through the wreckage of tragedy and violence, my fear is that people of faith are lining up to be on the “winning” side.

I think this is wrong and a misrepresentation of the way of the cross.

The good news of the Gospel is not about winning or being right about gun control, hate crimes, American politics or the pathology of violent criminals.

The good news of the Gospel is not about assigning blame or piecing together infallible arguments. The good news of the Gospel is not about defending a position against an onslaught of bad news.

When tragedy strikes, many of us ask the very human question “Where is God?”

We wonder how a loving, generous God could allow evil to seemingly triumph.

Answers to this question don’t come easily. They are ancient and mysterious questions that humans have been grappling with for thousands of years.

Perhaps an easier question to answer is: Where is God not?

God is not sitting behind a CEO-sized executive desk going “See, I told you so. If the church members were armed this maniac could have been stopped.”

God is not preparing his comments to be broadcast globally so he can rally support behind his cause.

God is not with the winners.

In God’s love economy, or kingdom, he is with those who have lost. He comforts those who mourn, he joins in the suffering of those who suffer.

And he calls us to do the same.

Now, during Holy Week, as we confront a global reality of tragic violence in Belgium, Mali, Ivory Coast, Turkey, Syria and at home, let us remember that Jesus came to save us from sin and death. He lived and died humbly, without posturing, scheming, torturing or killing.

May that same God have mercy on us all.

Revelation 7:17
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

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