After the latest terrorist attack in France, two of the main reactions have been anger and despair. Anger at the senseless loss of 84 civilians - and despair at how alarmingly regular attacks like these are becoming. Is this just what we’re to expect from now on, we wonder? Will there be any end to the carnage? It seems that the authorities are helpless in the face of those who are absolutely committed to destroying human life.
Contrary to what we might think, the Bible would agree that anger is a healthy response to such events. The New Testament says ‘be angry and do not sin’; the two don’t always have to go together. While there’s a popular idea of ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’, the Bible records him being righteously angry on several occasions. In fact, it would be wrong not to be angry about events in Nice. Men, women, boys and girls were cruelly mown down. Families have been destroyed. Even our grief tells us that those who were killed were not products of random chance. Rather, they were created in the image of God. He gave them life, and no-one had the right to take it away. So we’re right to be angry.
But if anger is justified – what about despair? Well if you don’t believe in a God of justice, it’s difficult to see how hopelessness can be avoided. This new kind of terrorism, in which the perpetrators see death as something to embraced, means that those who carry out such atrocities will almost always escape justice on earth. If there’s no Day of Judgement, then Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel has simply become the latest in a long line of murderers to get away with his crimes. Yet even our desire that justice would be done is a reminder that we too are made in the image of a God of justice. The latest martyr for Islamic State may have dreamt of paradise – but he’s now come face to face with the true God.
The fact that God is a God of justice shouldn’t leave us feeling smug however. It’s not just those who drive lorries through crowded streets who deserve God’s wrath – it’s all of us. One day we too will stand before him – only in Jesus is there hope of escape.
Published in Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press, 21 July 2016