A Much Needed Perspective: Where Was God?

Kenya_montageThe following is part of a newsletter send from RZIM, the ministry of Ravi Zacharias, written by John Njoroge, a Kenyan who knows more than most of us what our Garissan brothers and sisters in Christ have gone through and are going through as targets of religious persecution. You can read more of John’s thoughts at the RZIM site. Here’s what he had to say in answer to the question, Where was God?

This is one question that, predictably and inevitably, comes up when tragedy strikes, and legitimately so. It is most pertinent for those who claim Jesus Christ as the definitive stamp of God’s presence on earth – God in human flesh. The Bible presents us with a God who is all-good and all-powerful. No religious system that does not worship a Being who is thus described faces this particular problem of evil. But if God is morally perfect, why doesn’t He intervene to stop these types of evil?

One can approach this question in two ways: from an intellectual/logical perspective or from an emotional/experiential perspective. In the face of tragedy, the most vexing issue is not whether or not there is a logical contradiction between believing in a perfect God given the reality of evil. That is actually easier to handle. By creating us as moral beings, God gave us the ability to choose, and with that ability came the possibility of evil.

Our ability to choose is at once God’s most powerful means of conferring dignity upon us as well as a deadly gift. It all depends on how we choose to use the gift. Nevertheless, we need to note that God’s jurisdiction extends beyond this life, and when all is said and done, every human being will be held accountable for his or her actions.

So the intellectual side of the equation is easier to address, and it is not the main issue that troubles us in the face of tragedy. The real problem is the emotional angst one inescapably feels while trying to understand why God would seemingly stand by and watch as these horrendous activities take place.

However, the Gospel message grasps this nettle with unparalleled authority and beauty. On Good Friday this weekend, Christians remembered the ghastly murder of God’s innocent Son, Jesus Christ, on a Roman cross. The crucifixion was preceded by many hours of unbelievable flogging and humiliation. In the face of this untold horror, Jesus raised this very question with God the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[1]

So, where was God when His Son suffered a slow, excruciating death on the cross? In biblical terms, God made the arrangement for this event before the world began.[2] And about seven hundred years before the crucifixion, the prophet Isaiah wrote,

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”[3]

God knew the choices we would make, and He knew the depth of the evil in the human heart.

A story that has emerged from Garissa offers us a powerful analogy. One of the students, Hellen Titus, told the Kenyan media how she was able to escape from the tragedy as the shooters hovered over her and her fellow students. She covered herself with someone else’s blood and was thereby mistaken for dead. That is exactly what Jesus has done for us; He invites us to be covered with His blood so that we can live. And when we are thus protected, we may grieve, but we do not grieve like those without hope, and we do not fear those who can only kill the body but cannot touch the soul.

So, why doesn’t God intervene in these types of situations? He has.

John Njoroge

John is the host of the African versions of RZIM’s radio programs Let My People Think and Just Thinking, which are heard in several countries across the African continent.

[1] Matthew 27:46
[2] Revelation 13:8
[3] Isaiah 53:5

Published in: on April 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm  Comments (3)  
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Would I Deny Jesus?

PeterafterdenyingChristThe Easter story includes the events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion—the last supper He shared with His followers, His time of prayer in the garden, Judas’s betrayal of Him, His ensuing arrest, and Peter’s denial that he knew Him.

For the most part I think Christians have been harsh on Peter. True, we often identify with him, and we use him as an example of God’s amazing forgiveness, restoration, and power to use someone who was as close to walking away from God as a person can get.

And yet, it’s hard to get past the fact that Peter did, in fact, publicly declare that he didn’t follow Jesus or even know Him. Not once. Not twice. He denied Jesus three times and sealed the deal by swearing that what he said was true.

Apparently it convinced the people around him, because they let him alone after that. Of course, God didn’t let him alone. When the rooster crowed—confirming the prophecy Jesus had made about these denials—Peter was broken, went out of the high priest’s courtyard where he’d been waiting to see what would happen to Jesus, and wept.

But what if he hadn’t denied Christ? Would God have protected him or would he have been arrested and crucified along with the three who ended up on Golgotha?

Thinking about what Peter did has never seemed more practical than in our world today. We’ve watched news coverage of terrorists in the Middle East marching Christians en masse outside their village to behead them. Now the report has reached us that another terrorist group stormed a town in Kenya. After opening fire, they systematically worked their way through a school asking who was Muslim and who was Christian. The Christians they killed on the spot.

A few weeks ago, 60 Minutes covered the terrorist takeover of Mosul in Iraq. Christians were singled out, then given the choice to convert to Islam or be killed. One man interviewed on the program, with a wife and child (maybe more than one) at risk, said he agreed to convert, but afterward he took the chance to escape and again embraces Christianity.

Which brings me back to Peter. And to me.

It’s so easy to say I would never deny Jesus, but I wonder. I mean, Peter said over and over that he would never deny Jesus. He said he was willing to die with Jesus. And yet, when the time came, all his bold assertions escaped him. And he was left with what? His fear? His belief that he could figure a way to get Jesus out if he managed to avoid arrest himself? We don’t know what went through his mind, but what came out of his mouth was, I don’t know the man. Yet days before he’d proclaimed that Jesus was God’s Messiah.

My heart breaks for those Christians who were terrorized, for those who lost family members, for those left to pick up and go on after such devastation, and for those who may have denied they knew Jesus in that moment of crisis.

May the latter find the same forgiveness Peter found, and may God use them in the same powerful way to spread the good news about our resurrected Savior as He used Peter. May God send His comfort to those who remain, and may they have His assurance that they do not grieve as those who have no hope.

May Easter remind them of God’s triumph over death and sin. May it reassure them that those who died for their faith have not died in vain. May their courage be fuel to fire the spread of the gospel, even as the persecution of the early Church did in the first century.

May God give us in the West boldness to proclaim His name while we can without fear. May we be faithful to pray for our brothers and sisters who are on the front lines suffering because they follow Jesus.

Published in: on April 3, 2015 at 6:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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Fantasy Friday: In Lieu Of A Comment

Fantasy author Jonathan Rogers (The Charlatan’s Boy and other books about Feechie folk) includes a fun feature on his blog: Friday Audience Participation. Most weeks I don’t have a story to share, but this week, I do … in triplicate, times ten.

But alas! My computer has an ongoing argument with Jonathan’s comment system. Some days they make peace, and I can enter into discussions on his site, but I never know what state of cooperation (or lack thereof) I’ll find.

Today’s topic … I just couldn’t resist. Try as I might, however, I could not get past Please wait. Sorta felt for a while like I was on hold with the automated answering system from Darth Vader’s Evil Empire or some such dastardly place.

In the end, I decided to bring my answer here (it certainly is long enough to be a post). So first, Jonathan’s Audience Participation topic for today:

Tell us your anecdotes about wild mammals you have known, from field mice to possums to bears. Armadillos, by the way, are mammals. A surprising number of people think armadillos are a kind of reptile, but they are as mammalian as you are and are therefore eligible for this APF. Dolphins and whales, I don’t have to remind you, are also mammals.

And my answer which never had a chance (sort of like having a manuscript rejected by an agent without being read 😆 ):

Without a doubt, my parents both had Feechie blood in them. Consequently, I have more mammal stories to tell than all the rest of the visitors [there] at Jonathan-Rogers.com put together. Do you want to hear about the time my dad almost lost an arm to a mother bear because he was feeding her cubs? Or the time my mom woke me up to see the bear peering into the window of our cabin — the two-room structure with both doors wide open?

Instead, lets go with this one — not quite as dramatic, but probably more unusual.

When I was a teen, my parents decided to relocate from Southern California to East Africa. Yep. Half way around the world. In the fall of that year we headed off for a vacation which took us to the base of Kilimanjaro, then onto the plains of the Serengeti.

Lions we saw and zebra, wildebeest, Thompson gazelles, impala, giraffe, and water buffalo. But the ones I won’t forget are … well, now I realize they aren’t mammals, so I can’t tell the rest of the story. Too bad. It puts my dad on the map as Feechie kin.

Ah, but wait, I can tell about this one. We took a safari into Ngorongoro Crater, with a Tanzanian guide driving a Land Rover. Certainly the folks there must have detected my parent’s Feechiness because they gave us a driver that fit right in.

We zipped down the walls of the crater and onto the floor where we enjoyed any number of mammal sightings and eventually drew within feet of a couple of lions feasting on a fresh kill.

But our driver had something special in mind. He headed toward a swampy (I told you — Feechie blood in that man) area where he pointed out the top most part of a hippopotamus — a bit of his head and some of his back (I have the picture).

Not satisfied (probably because we couldn’t get closer), our driver whipped the Land Rover around until he found a lone rhinoceros.

Instead of pulling up at a respectable distance so we could get our pictures, however, he gunned the engine and headed straight for the animal who lowered his horn at us and charged.

Our driver didn’t back off or steer clear, though. He came to a full stop and turned off the engine! Yep turned it off. Then told us to remain still. Me hanging out of the open roof of the Land Rover, camera in hand, staring down a 2000 pound rhino inches from the hood of the Land Rover.

Later our driver explained: rhinos have poor eyesight, but they make up for it with their hearing.

How long did we sit there in a stare down with an angry rhinoceros? It seemed like hours (though it was probably more like ten minutes). That old gray bull wasn’t in a charitable mood. He wanted to spear something!

We did get some pictures though, but I think the other visitors cranking their cameras got better footage than we did. After all, we stayed very still for most of the encounter!

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