Bloodshed

A reflection from Ravi Zacharias on the recent shootings.

Photo: John Locher / Associated Press

Two days in a row, we read of the senseless slaughter of people at the hands of killers who had a personal agenda against our culture or against society at large. The blood had not yet dried on the floors before many in the media and political aspirants added more division and more pain to our fractured country. Very few had answers. Those who love to rail against people or views once again harnessed the awful carnage to strum the same strings of vibrant discord. There were a handful who dared to deal with the heart of the matter. But for the most part, it was a rant about the same old thorny issues that don’t give any answers but only surface solutions to deep-seated hate within the heart of humanity. My eight-year-old grandson could have done a better job at analyzing what the real issue is.

The issue of race and prejudice is not just an American problem. Nor is the problem of violence just a racial problem. All over the world I have sat at tables and listened to people from within the same continent voice what bothers them the most and who is to blame for the turmoil globally. Religion, caste, creed, color, values, possessions, politics have all been blamed for those who hate someone—and the cost in life has been huge.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most vociferous atheists of his time, warned us in the late nineteenth century of the danger that lay ahead because “God had died at the hands of the philosophers.” In the twentieth century, more blood was shed than in the previous nineteen put together. Nietzsche warned that the “madman” had arrived, but it would take time for us to see what that meant. That time has now come. The power of the individual to kill with words or weapons is used to expose the hate that we nurture in our godless times. We took the Bible out of schools. We took prayer out of schools. We punish people who mention God in public graduations. We mock the name of Christ with profane delight. We have lost all definitions for everything and sound pathetic while trying to give answers for the cruelty of our time. It is easier today to preach the gospel in once hostile countries than it is in America, which has now celebrated the absence of God.

One man on death row in a major prison said to me, “If I had had the Bible given to me in school, maybe I would not have needed it put in this cell.”

I know what the critic will say: "Religion has slaughtered its thousands." Such an overgeneralization reveals a bankruptcy both in one’s knowledge of history and philosophy. Are they forgetting the two atheistic regimes of Russia and China? The difference between the killing in the Crusades and the slaughter by atheists is that those who kill in the name of God are violating his character. Those who kill in the name of man are being consistent with secular humanism's bankruptcy in finding absolutes.

Having killed God, we are now playing God and playing with life. Cars have been used as weapons; commercial airlines have been used as weapons. The desire to kill will find any way to do it. Nietzsche’s madman has arrived. He said that the death of God would mean no more Up or Down. So we batter each other with terms like Right and Left. Fighting against heaven, we are making a hell on earth.

What it boils down to is this. Yes, of course lawmakers have to find ways to make the means more difficult. But they never seem to have answers for the source of hate that will use any means to accomplish its purpose. The real answer or problem is in blood. We either see the blood of Christ shed for us to cleanse our hearts or we shed the blood of our fellow human beings and watch the hollow analysis night after night. We either let God be God and rule our hearts or, as Alexander Pope said, we “Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod, Re-judge his justice, be the god of God.”

Steve Turner, the English journalist, said years ago that when we reject the true God and take his place, the news will follow: "When you hear state of emergency; sniper kills ten; youths go looting; bomb blasts school—it is but the sound of man worshiping his maker."

Yes, in the eyes of a killer the carnage in Walmart may have been against a particular group of people. But in reality his action was against God who gives us the splendor of our distinctives, even as he calls us to a unity in being image bearers of God himself.

When my grandson was seven years old, he came home from school one day shaken by hearing of the scourge of slavery. His mother started to tell him about Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Wilberforce and others who fought against racial discrimination. But then he said, “Will there be people who will hate my friend, too, because he has come from another country?” Before his mother could answer, he said, "My hypothesis is this: If somebody wants to hate you, they will find a reason to justify their hate.” There you have it. From a seven- year-old.

But there is hope. On Good Friday this year, his teacher sat down all her second graders and washed their feet and prayed for each one individually. Then the children asked if they could wash her feet and pray for her too. She was surprised. She let them do it. After they dried her feet, our little guy said to her, “Your feet are now clean, but your heart is even cleaner, and our hearts are purer now than they were when we first met you.” The teacher sent that note to his mother.

How heaven-like it would be if our children were taught what it means to have a clean heart and spare them any future prejudice or hate. For that, there is one who laid down his life for us: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

I write this from Frankfurt. It’s a beautiful city and the German hosts have been so gracious and kind. We drove through the downtown area that was destroyed during World War II and has been recently rebuilt according to the old plans of the city fathers from before the war. They have done a magnificent job. Renewed homes and businesses sit next to the magnificent cathedral and an evangelical church. The word “evangelical” comes from the word meaning “the good news.” Renewing and rebuilding is good news. It is the best news when it is done in the heart as designed by our heavenly Father. For that, only our Lord has the message and the means. It is fitting for the church to be next to rebuilt homes. G.K. Chesterton said it well: "The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and left untried."

I will never stop praying for the healing of our land. That’s when it will once again be America the Beautiful, when in God we trust.

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