Where Were You?
As I closed in on the 15th hour of my family’s drive to Michigan for spring break, I began getting phone calls from friends and family asking if we were ok and if we knew anything about the “bombings”. Completely shocked, my wife began reading the online accounts of what we now know to be an act of terror at the Boston Marathon. In that moment, we began praying for the victims and the first responders. We began taking mental inventory of all of our friends who were in Boston at the time the bombs went off… our friend Lori who was running in the marathon; Stephanie who showed up at MGH for a routine day in the OR, who by that time was helping to treat many of the victims; the Bramlett family, who had just left Fenway park and were only a few blocks away from Copley Square; and multiple others. Shortly after getting confirmation that all of our friends and family were ok, we arrived at my parents house and for the first time saw the footage of the day’s events. As the weight of this tragedy began to set in, I was reminded of that Tuesday morning almost 12 years ago – again sitting on my parents couch, watching white billows of smoke pour out of the twin towers in NYC. And as I sat there watching the coverage, I couldn’t help but think of all of the conversations that would happen over the next several days, starting with the same question we asked each other in the days following 9/11… “Where were you?”
And while this question will be a catalyst for much of the conversation in the days ahead, it will ultimately lead to an even bigger question… “Where was God?”
At first glance, it would seem in circumstances like these, that God has been negligent. I mean, how could God allow such a tragic thing like this to happen? This is where our flesh naturally takes our mind. Amid the chaos of screaming people and smoked filled streets we are left with only one conclusion: God must not care. But nothing could be farther from the truth! Everything we need to know about God He has graciously revealed to us through His word. So what does His word reveal about Him?
God is the Father of the fatherless and protector of widows (Psalm 68:5). He gives justice to the weak and the fatherless; and maintains the right of the afflicted and the destitute (Psalm 82:3). He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3) and He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). We see all of these expressions of love fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who was God come to be with us. He came to bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, open the prisons of those who are bound, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:17-21). Everything Jesus said and did was an expression of who God is. All throughout the scriptures we see that God is anything but carless and negligent when it comes to the needs of His people. He is holy, loving, just, and merciful; and He demonstrates all of this and more by sending His own son to take on the flesh of humanity, to die in our place, the just for the unjust. Because of this, we can trust that God is gracious and sympathetic, because His son also suffered at the hands of angry men, had His flesh pierced with nails, and was the ultimate victim of injustice.
So, while it may seem in times like these that God is to blame, He is not the enemy in this story. We don’t have the right to accuse God of being careless. On the contrary, it is He who accuses us! The reason that horrific things happen in this world is not because of God’s negligence; it’s because of mankind’s sinfulness. The world in which we live is broken. Things are not as they ought to be. Fear and pain and suffering and terrorist attacks, they all exist because of sin in our world. And as dark as these days are, they do serve a purpose. The horrific occurrences of our world stand in stark contrast to the goodness and beauty of God. What this means, is that while these events are not orchestrated by God, they are none the less woven by God into our human experience; so that our hearts might be awakened to the depths of man’s sin in contrast with the heights of God’s grace, and that ultimately we would be drawn to Him. This is why people were drawn to Jesus, because everything that Jesus said and did was an expression of who God is and subsequently stood in contrast to the rest of the world. His compassion, His love, His mercy, His miracles, the way He served, the way He spoke; all of it, the powerful self expression of God’s presence in His world.
Jesus is God’s promise to us that He is at work in His world.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”- Revelation 21:1-5a
Through Christ, God is at work in this world making all things new. And while Jesus is the promise of that work, we, His people, are the evidence of it. In the midst of tragedy, the evidence of God’s work in this world is the transformed lives of His people. Like actors in a divine theater, our lives are used by God to tell the world of His compassion, His love, His justice, His mercy, and His healing. So in the weeks and months ahead, as we seek to serve our region through acts of compassion and love, as we listen to the stories of those who are hurting and offer hope, as we pray for justice in our broken world, and for mercy for the broken, as we seek to bring healing to a city that is hurting, may our words and our actions stand in contrast to the rest of the world as an expression of who God is; so that when the world asks the question where was God? They might see Christ in us as the evidence that God has been here all along.