I’ve tried to hold off on publishing this post in an effort to not add to the noise that has surrounded a recent, terribly devastating event that happened last Tuesday near UNC-Chapel Hill. For you readers outside of this community who may have not heard, three Muslim students were shot and killed while walking out of their apartment complex. You can read more of the story here, but needless to say it has been gut-wrenching to think about these innocent victims and their families.
As news and updates continued to trickle in throughout the day on Wednesday, they just served as a reminder of how truly sad and unnecessary this whole situation is. But as the day came to a close and I was going to bed, I decided to take a moment to pray for the victims and their families — and as I did, tears started to fall and I found myself lost for words at how we have fallen so far.
I wanted to ask God why He would let these things happen. I wanted to ask Him why we have to live in a world with so much hatred, and why He won’t just save us from our own destructive selves… but then I think of Israel. The story of the people of Israel has been fresh on my mind lately because we’re studying the book of Judges in my small group — here’s how the story goes:
1. Abraham’s descendants (aka – the Israelites) spend 400 years in Egypt as slaves.
2. God sends Moses to deliver the people of Israel out of slavery.
3. After becoming free, the Israelites rebel and lose sight of God.
4. God allows His people to be overtaken by the enemies that surround them.
5. The people (sort of) repent.
6. God sends a judge (not like we know them today, but more like a military leader who is acting on behalf of God and His mission) to save the people of Israel from being overtaken.
7. And the Israelites repeat steps 3-6 over and over and over again.
When I look at this story, the first thing I think is, “How could you abandon a God who delivered you from slavery? You had absolutely no hope, and He intentionally sent someone to rescue you. How could you have possibly forgotten so quickly?” It’s no wonder that the people of Israel were continually being overtaken by outside enemies — they kept turning away from the one power that could actually protect them.
So then many years later, God sends His Son Jesus. And here’s how that story goes:
1. The people have abandoned God and His commands, so He gives them up (Micah 5:3). For 400 years, there is complete silence from God.
2. This silence comes to an end when God sends Jesus Christ to live a life that we couldn’t live and die a death that we deserved to save us from being slaves to sin.
3. After becoming free, we have rebelled and lost sight of God.
Jesus’ coming may have been 2,000 years ago, but we are still in a state of rebellion. The progression is pretty clear here: just as with Israel, our enemies are overtaking us. And so the question goes: How could we abandon a God who delivered us from slavery? We had absolutely no hope, and He intentionally sent someone to rescue us. How could we possibly forget so quickly?
As a society, we have looked at God and said, “We don’t want you here. Let us have our conversations about ‘multiple truths’ and complacent lifestyles; let us kill and steal and hurt and use each other — let us do whatever we want, because we are the masters of our lives.” So we read about ISIS and the terrible acts of torture that are taking place under their watch, and we comment on how tragic it is that people are being killed just because of their religion — but it’s not until it happens in our own backyard that we really start to question where God is.
But it never fails: as soon as God allows our enemies to step one foot in the door, we cry out to Him and ask how He could let it happen. How could He not let it happen when this is how we are living? The only difference between us and Israel is that when Moses came to deliver them from slavery, he wasn’t a permanent fix — he was only a reflection of what was to come. As for us, we have no excuse: the Savior who delivered us from our slavery hung on a cross until that last breath went out of His lungs, and in the midst of it all He said, “Father, forgive them. For they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He walked among a crowd that called Him a heretic. They spit on Him as He walked to His death to save them. And so have we.
God is no amateur when it comes to seeing His people rebel. He has watched it happen more than I could ever fathom to know, and yet His mercies are new every day. How much louder does He have to be before we realize that a world where we rebel against God is a world that none of us can stand to live in?
I don’t have the answer for you. All I know is that the God who delivered the Israelites from slavery is the same God who sent His Son to die for us is the same God that desires a relationship with every single one of us today. Muslim lives matter. Atheist lives matter. Your life matters — that’s why Jesus died to save it. Forgive us, Lord, for we do not know what we have done.