It was with deep sadness and a palpably heavy heart that I watched the events of the Boston Marathon unfold last Monday. The situation weighed on me through the week as I pondered the same question that people all over the country were asking: “Who would do such a thing and why?”
Speculation ran rampant and frankly I was surprised at how muted the talking heads on TV and radio seemed to be when it came to pointing fingers in the days following the crisis. Admittedly, that could have been because I rarely expose myself to pundits. Too few people realize that what generally passes for news these days is in all actuality entertainment designed to appeal and emotionally engage a specific audience.
I have no need or desire to be “entertained” in this fashion.
In any event, by the end of the week, we had some idea as to “who” was involved: A 19 year old teenager and his older brother who were – as of this writing – apparently acting alone. I suspect that it will be quite some time, if ever, before we as a nation understand the “why” they felt compelled to do it.
At this point, speculation is that the elder brother may have been developing an extremist view of Islam. Whatever the reason, the bombing was an atrocity. Sadly, throughout history many barbaric acts have been carried out in the name of God.
Regardless of what they claim as justification, this was an act of evil that had nothing to do with God.
The world we live in is broken and sinful. Evil runs rampant because of it. Yet I would argue that most Christians don’t have a deep enough understanding of what sin really is or the full implication of what it means.
Whether one believes in them or not, there are forces of good and evil at work in humanity that lie beyond our natural senses to directly see and perceive.
The Bible teaches us that Adam and Eve brought sin into this world through their disobedience to God. But sin encompasses more than that and it is shortsighted to reduce it merely to an issue of “moral” failure. Sin is a far greater issue than morality as we perceive it. Sin is separation from God – it is anything that separates you from God; anything that comes between you and the Heavenly Father; anything you place in priority before Him.
This is a reality that makes most people uncomfortable because it requires placing God at the very center of our lives (as opposed to just giving lip service) and recognizing sin for its personal implications.
To better understand sin we need to examine its origin. We need to look at a time before Adam and Eve.
I know Christians who don’t believe there is such a being as Satan. Some believe he is just a construct or a symbol for evil, not an actual being. But he is quite real. However, “the devil” isn’t the horned demon with a tail and pitchfork that we have been encouraged to imagine. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before he was known as the Enemy or Satan or the devil or any one of dozens of names, he was known as Lucifer, the brightest and most magnificent of the created beings. So impressive an angel was he that God referred to him as the “son of the morning.” (Isaiah 14:12)
Lucifer was a pinnacle of God’s creation, but ultimately he chose to reject his Lord and Creator. He was the highest of all created beings, but there came a point when in his pride he persuaded himself that he no longer had any love or need for God.
…This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. – Ezekiel 28: 12-17 (NIV)
A time came when this angelic “model of perfection” seeing the very magnificence God had given him, imagined himself not only greater than the rest of creation, but equal with his Creator. He nurtured a false pride in himself, rejecting his purpose changing his focus to self. Lucifer, in the reflection of the splendor he was formed with, decided he had no need for his Creator.
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. – Isaiah 14:13-14
As he embraced that thought, he brought something new to the universe: the perverted misconception that God was not necessary. It was (and is) the very definition of self-centeredness for a created being.
When he turned his focus inward to himself, Lucifer turned his heart away from God… and away from good. The problem with this is that God is not only the Creator, He is the Source and Sustainer of all creation. When any creation is removed from the Source, then evil invariably results, for evil in its truest sense is the absence of God.
Equality with God and the idea that good and evil are opposite are but two outright lies among many that have been perpetuated through the ages. Those concepts are deceitful fabrication designed to mislead and mask the truth, to keep God’s children from realizing and receiving His love. Satan is driven to deceive as many as possible into believing that they do not need God.
How could something like this happen? Why would God allow created beings to turn against Him?
The answer is astonishingly simple:
The Creator does not manufacture automatons. He does not desire “robots” who act and think and respond alike according to their programming. He created us that we might share in and experience the love and divine passion that flows from the Godhead, through us out to all of creation.
The most important thing that God gives to all intelligent, created beings is freewill – the power to choose. He desires your love in a personal relationship with Him, but true love cannot ever be forced, it must be given willingly.
God knew that giving choice would involve risk. But He also knew that His love would ultimately overcome any other outcome.
In inconceivable love, He allowed this affliction to continue for a predetermined time so that the entire created universe might see and judge Him. It was an unbelievable act of selflessness: the Omnipotent Creator submitted himself to be judged by the created.
It was not something God had to do, but out of divine love He was willing to.
God the Son astonished the universe by descending the throne of heaven and coming to earth, not just by taking the form of a low created being, but also by dying a most demeaning, disgusting death on the cross to redeem and reclaim you and I back to Himself.
It would not be until Christ’s victory over the second death, that even the heavenly hosts would fully realize the length to which God was willing to go to prove His love for man.
Christ went from the magnificent throne of heaven to the indignity of crucifixion for our sake. It was the epitome of selflessness and it revealed Satan for who and what he truly is.
When a created being chooses self over the God that created him or her and rejects the divine purpose that they were created for, then there is a void. Self-centeredness always results in evil for evil is not the opposite of good; evil is merely the absence of God.
As Christians, each of us need to ask ourselves (and answer honestly), “What is the real focus of my life?” When we displace God and set our primary focus on ourselves, we place our own self-centered desires above all else. We turn our hearts away from God with predictable results. Every day throughout history, men have attempted to further their own self-centered goals by “any means necessary.” Sooner or later, this always involves hatred, violence, oppression and war.
Christ revealed and proved that God’s true means of change is through selflessness born of divine love.
As destructive as it is, sin did not alter God’s love for man. It merely obscured our view and distorted our perception of the relationship we have with God. This is Satan’s real objective: To blind us and block our comprehension of who God truly is and His desire to reach beyond the sin that separates us from Him. The Enemy’s purpose is to ensnare you and keep you apart from your Heavenly Father’s passionate love.
I will not insult the victims of tragedy with empty platitudes. I do not have words that will ease the pain of the parents who lost children. There is nothing of myself I can offer to comfort those who were severely wounded or lost limbs. My heart aches for you and my prayers go with you.
If comfort can be found, it is because we believe and have hope as the apostle Paul did:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? (Even the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” ) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)
Until the day that the final act of this cosmic drama is played out, until Christ returns and Satan is “put down” for good, bad things will continue to happen. The Bible reveals that things will get worse before they get better. But we have a hope that shines in this darkness, It is a hope that sustains and strengthens us through the difficulties, obstacles and setbacks that we face in life. If we choose Him, nothing in the universe can ever separate us from Him.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
This world will be set right one day. That day draws ever near.
God knows and cares. He shares in the hurt you feel. Although our lives on this earth are all that we may perceive with our natural senses, it is not all that there is. He sent His Son to the cross in order that we might be reconciled to him. What happens here is not the end of the story.
Are you ready for an intimate relationship with your Heavenly Father? That is what He wants from you.