Article copyright 2016 by Bob Rogers
Fifteen years ago, on September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked America, flying hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and Washington, D.C. The evil intentions of hijackers on a third plane that day is unknown, because brave passengers resisted the hijackers and forced it to crash in Pennsylvania.
When tragedies like this happen, the inevitable question is, “Why?” Amazingly, Jesus Christ asked the same question as he was dying upon the cross, crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34) It is in that very question of Jesus that we can find helpful answers.
He absorbed our evil by His love. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they unleashed a Pandora’s Box of evil that impacts us to this day. But upon the cross, Jesus absorbed that evil, by lovingly sacrificing Himself. The apostle Paul put it this way: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Himself said, “Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13).
He empowered us to overcome evil by faith. Jesus’ sacrifice inspires us to identify with Christ by faith, and moves us to action ourselves. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Thus Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
He heals the hurt of evil by giving hope. The greatest medicine for healing is not penicillin or aspirin– it’s hope. During World War II, psychologist Viktor Frankl studied the lives of people who survived Nazi concentration camps, and found the survivors were those who had hope. The Bible says, “For in hope we have been saved” (Romans 8:24); “This hope we have as an anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6:19); “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5).
Louie Zamperini was an American aircraft gunman in World War II, whose plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean. He and his friends floated across the ocean for a month, losing half of their body weight and nearly going insane, only to be captured by the Japanese. Because Zamperini had been a famous Olympic runner, the Japanese treated him with particular cruelty, beating him mercilessly. His story was made famous in the 2014 movie, Unbroken. But Hollywood only hinted at the rest of the story. After his return from war, Louie Zamperini suffered so much post-traumatic stress that he fell into despair and addiction. Then a young preacher named Billy Graham held a revival in his home in Los Angeles. At the urging of his wife, Louie went. Graham stood and asked, “Why is God silent when good men suffer?” He reminded the audience that God sends us messages through creation and through Christ that He cares for us. Zamperini remembered seeing a swirl of light in the sky when he was floating across the Pacific, awed by God’s creation. He listened as Graham talked about the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin, and that day, Zamperini found hope in Christ. For the rest of his life, Louie Zamperini followed Christ. He founded a ranch to offer hope to troubled boys, and he even traveled to Japan to forgive his prison captain.
Louie Zamperini found the answer to “Why” in the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So can you and I.
It is a difficult issue, because as Christians it is not ours to avenge, but to leave it to the Lord. However, most Christians agree that there is such a thing as a “just” war when a greater evil is prevented. A good example is World War II and the ultimate death of Adolf Hitler.
There was a great German pastor in World War II named Dietrich Bonhoeffer who opposed Hitler. Bonhoeffer even participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler, and he was a Christian pastor! Why would he do that? Because Bonhoeffer knew that it would stop a greater evil.In the Old Testament, Moses was sent to Pharaoh and told to demand justice for the Hebrew slaves. God even sent a “death angel” as a final plague upon the Egyptians to set the people free. When the Hebrews fled across the Red Sea and Pharaoh chased them, God allowed the Egyptians to drown in the sea, and Exodus 15 records the song of rejoicing that Moses sang at their defeat. That is why Proverbs 11:10 says that when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.
How do we reconcile this with Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek and loving our enemies? I think we need to make a distinction between personal offenses and social justice. While it is a virtue to overlook a personal insult, it is not a virtue to overlook a tyrant who is oppressing a people. The former act would be consider an act of grace; the latter would be considered a gross negligence of justice.
I cannot judge the hearts of those who shouted and jumped for joy at the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. I’m sure for many, it was a hateful rejoicing at a man’s death. However, for others, it may have been more of a celebration of justice being done, as we find in some of the psalms, such as Psalm 69:19-25. This psalm is quoted by Paul in Romans 11:9-11, and is applied to the death of Judas Iscariot by the early church in Acts 1:20. You will notice in Psalm 69 that the psalmist does not ask for an opportunity to personally harm his enemy, but he asks God to bring about justice, which is actually the same thing we read in Romans 12:19, where we are told to “leave room for God’s wrath.” Thus as a Christian, I do not rejoice that a man is dead, but I do rejoice that God executed His justice to end an evil terrorist who will never be able to blow up another building or murder any more defenseless people.