God Has Blood On His Hands
Blood. The summer has been bathed in it. On July 20, James Holmes opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora Colorado killing twelve and wounding fifty-nine others. On August 5, Wade Michael Page opened fire at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin killing six people and wounding four. On Friday August 24, Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to 21 years after being declared sane. In 2011 Breivik killed 77 people. How can five brief sentences convey the reality of the deaths of ninety-five people? To say these events defy explanation is…well even the word understatement fails. Does this leave you feeling numb? Does it leave an ache in the center of your being? Does it force you to wonder or even scream “where were you God?”
Where was God? It’s the default question we ask we confronted with tragedy, pain, or grief. When someone like James Holmes foists upon us the reality that he has the same blood in his veins and breadth in his lungs as the rest of us…that he’s human; it offends all our senses and all rational thought. Couldn’t God have prevented these events? Shouldn’t God prevent things like this from happening? God must have known what Holmes, Page, and Breivik were planning. It seems God has blood on his hands…
Closer to home my niece Alexa died just a few weeks ago. She was two days old. My family gathered with my sister at the hospital hoping for a miracle just hours after they had gathered together in joy celebrating Alexa’s entrance into the world. The miracle never came. We sat and sang to my niece as she passed from this world in the arms of my sister. I had to watch my sister hold her dying child. Grief always seems an alien landscape when I find myself here. As I look at the world around me it seems so contrary to the created order.
Not surprisingly people asked me “where’s God in this?” Or “how could God allow this?” Or even “how can you believe in a God that would kill a baby?” In other words, God’s got blood on his hands.
When we take one attribute of God and make it the totality of our understanding we distort his character and blur his image. Some take God’s sovereignty and make it the sum total of their encounter with him. The fact that my niece is dead does not dethrone God in heaven. Nor does God sit in a dimension beyond us gleefully plotting our demise. God does not delight in tragedy. God does not rejoice in sorrow. God’s heart breaks and his tears join ours.
While here among us Jesus had to stair into the abyss that is death. Undoubtedly he lost family and friends to death during his roughly thirty years on earth. There’s no mention of Joseph during Jesus’ public ministry and that’s most likely because he had died. He had probably been around 30 years-of-age when Jesus was born into this world. Jesus had to hold his mother and comfort her at the graveside as she wept for her husband.
In the Gospel of John we catch of glimpse of Jesus’s grief at the loss of one of his closes friends. His friend Lazarus fell ill and died and his sisters Mary and Martha were left behind to grieve.
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” – John 11:32-35
Here we read that Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” The English translation inadequately conveys that Jesus was agitated to his core; deeply disturbed by the reality and pain of death. Jesus openly wept for his friend Lazarus. Before dwelling here on earth Jesus had dwelt eternally in divine communion and love with the Father and the Spirit. They had never tasted death. They never knew mortality. Grief. Pain. Anguish. Sorrow. Death…
God hates death. It is his enemy and his enemy needed to be vanquished. There was only one way to do it. There was only one way to kill his enemy while also opening the way back to himself. His son left a place of eternal love, joy, peace…and came and dwelt in mortal flesh. He was rejected by his own family and people. He was beaten and tortured. Jesus had to stair death in the face as he hung beaten, humiliated, and abandoned on the cross. God has blood on his hands. It’s his own.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” – John 11:25-26