Somehow I missed the news that more than 100 civilians had been massacred in Syria recently. Perhaps it's because I don't really follow the news as carefully as I might. My husband, though, is really up on things...and he didn't know about it. Even today, more than a week later, there is little coverage except on CNN.com and news magazines like the New Yorker, and the CNN coverage is from the 27th of May. What does this have to do with me, today, in rural Georgia you ask? Why should we, half a world away, care?
We should care because it is evil. We should care because civilized society shouldn't include images like this or this. Yes, I posted links to the unedited, unvarnished photographs of children - babies even - dead. They have parts of their skulls exposed. Their brains are on coverlets behind their heads. One has no arm. One has a gaping wound that once was her head. It's ugly. It's brutal. It's infuriating. It's real.
Most news outlets won't show the photos. Martin Fletcher, writing for the London Times, says that not printing the photos lets the brutal Syrian army under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad get away with the wickedness that they have perpetrated. He's right. Because of our delicate sensibilities, we conveniently ignore the gruesome reality of things we don't want to face. Because we cannot offend, we are blind to the injustice heaped upon the innocents of this world. We don't want to look. We don't want to know. We don't want to feel responsible.
I'm not supposed to be writing this tonight. No, in fact, I'm supposed to be praying right now. No kidding! My friends and I have embarked on a seven-month-long journey of purposeful living modeled after the journey documented in the recent book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. We are working together to shed our reliance on consumerism, to streamline our lives, to cut away excess, all in order to better serve our King. This month, our focus is on reducing stress, and one of the ways we are supposed to reduce our stress is to purposefully pause for prayer 7 times each day [Please visit our blog about this journey to learn more]. The prayer I am supposed to be praying right now is the prayer at bedtime - the Great Silence. In the Latin Hours, it is the hour of compline. It is supposed to be a prayer of rest, of contemplation, of trusting God for His protection through the night. Interestingly, it is also the time to bring to Him your personal sorrow, and I confess I feel a great sorrow on behalf of these murdered women and children. My prayer tonight is being poured out in this blog, as I pour out my heart to you, as I share what little insight I have gleaned from this horror.
It occurs to me that we are the murderers. Our sin is ugly. It is brutal. It is vile. It disgusts our Lord. In Habakkuk 1:13 [weird little book, close to the end of the Old Testament], the prophet Habakkuk says about God: "Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and you cannot look on wickedness with favor..." The amazing thing is, God didn't cling to His sensibilities. He didn't ignore our sinful condition because it disgusted Him. He didn't avert His eyes so He wouldn't have to look at our ugliness. Romans 5:8 makes this abundantly clear: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Did you get that? While we were still sinners! We were ugly! We were disgusting! I was repulsive - but Christ allowed Himself to be killed for me. He allowed Himself to be beaten, to be whipped, to be mocked, to be humiliated...all for me. Like the monsters in the service of al-Assad, I killed the innocent, the noncombatant - Jesus. Like those men, I had no mercy. My sin was the sin that placed Him on the Cross, and my sin was the sin that held Him there. My sin...and yours.
Many in this world don't want to look at that Sacrifice. It offends their sensibilities. Like al-Assad and his sycophants, they deny their connection to it. It has nothing to do with me, they say. I am not responsible, they say. I live a good life, they say. They are the U.N. observers, just one town over. A few short miles...and an unbelieving, unrepenting heart away. The U.N. observers wring their hands and decry the injustice, but they do nothing. The unbeliever wrings his hands and declares that he (or she) wants to believe, wants to follow, but they do nothing.
I choose to believe. I choose to acknowledge the ugliness, the brutality, the depravity that is my sin. I choose to see the Sacrifice wrought for me. I gratefully accept the gift of His all-encompassing grace that tells me that my involvement in the massacre is forgiven. I bow on my knees and cry to the Lord God that He protect me through the night...and that He break me of my complacency, of my disregard, of my ignorance of the evil in this world. His hands hold my sorrow tonight. It is a sorrow borne out of a deep sense of displacement. I want to be Home, where innocent children are not slaughtered in their sleep for the crime of being. I want to sit in my Father's lap, and have Him tell me there isn't going to be any more sorrow, that pain is gone forever. I want Him to wipe away my tears.
For now, though, I will open my eyes to evil. I will acknowledge it. I will not let it escape punishment because my sensibilities are too delicate to bear it. I will add my voice to the cry that resounds throughout the world: I will not tolerate evil. I will no longer turn my head from pain. I will, instead, fight for the ones who can't fight, love the ones who don't love me back, speak for those who can't speak, and know that at the end of my day, I have done it all in His name for His children.
All scripture quoted from the New American Standard Bible, (c) 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.