The past several days have been alarming. Different tragedies broke out in different nations with the rapidity of lit firecrackers. The gory headlines include:
- Police shoot two black men in two separate incidents.
- Sniper shoots and kills 5 police officers in Dallas.
- Conflict in South Sudan. Over 300 killed.
- Man rams truck into a crowd in the city of Nice, France. At least 84 people dead.
- Attempted coup in Turkey. Over 160 killed.
In such times of crisis, it is not unusual to hear that familiar question: “Where was God?” Why didn’t he do something about the innocent children who were murdered in Nice? Why didn’t he protect Alton Sterling and Philando Castille from the policemen who shot them? Why couldn’t God keep the 5 Dallas policemen alive? In moments of intense grief, it is normal to ask questions in order to make sense of tragedy. And my heart goes out to all those who have been personally stung in these atrocities.
While it is necessary to ask questions, we often ask the wrong questions. Instead of asking where God is, I think we should be asking: “Where am I”, or “Where is my society, in relation to God?”
These incidents confirm again and again that our world is broken. Things are not as they should be, and our world needs to be put right. Human nature is capable of so much mindless evil (and whoever said evil is rational?); advances in technology sadly seems to correlate inversely with our moral character. In the age of WiFi, we experience so much racial hatred, and all our technological sophistication only makes it easier for a man in France to subscribe to a heartless creed.
And we ask where is God?
Actually, God is where he has been all along since the foundation of the world.
He was there when the first human family rebelled against him and decided they could make out the meaning of life on their own. God was there when nations and societies spurn the light of nature and devise substitute gods for themselves. God was there in 1789 when citizens of France ushered in the modern world with their cry of ‘No king, No God’, a creed which still virtually governs our modern (and postmodern) world. God is there when, instead of reaching out for him, modern man devises all kinds of plans to solve economic, political, and social issues. God is always there, but the problem is that modern society has habitually seen him as the problem rather than the solution. We should run to God and not from God.
Can we change that narrative?
Instead of seeing him as a God to point fingers at, can we see him as a God to stretch our hands to? And I do not refer to something which only individuals in their private rooms should do. This is a responsibility which our modern governments and societies have long ignored. To the modern society, God is irrelevant; he is a relic of our medieval past. We have outgrown him. Sadly, our troubles and crises seem to have outgrown that conceit. Human wisdom has shown itself inadequate to solve human problems; they reach deeper than we tend to think.
We must bury our pride and become truly human once again, by remembering the God who made us and who has redeemed his creation through the work of Jesus Christ.
God’s hands are stretched out to transform not just our individual hearts but our entire societies. He can heal racial strife. He can give the terrorist a better cause to fight for, and with better weapons than guns and explosives. He can cure our lust for power by teaching us that power is a tool for service. He can satisfy our deepest longings for relationship and meaning, and resolve our anxiety over the great question of personal and social identity. Through him, and by coming to terms with Christ’s work of redemption, our lives, our institutions, and our societies can be transformed again.
But it will require us stretching out our hands in return.