Taking Our Blinkers Off
This week seems to have been a week of bad news stories - most weeks are if we pay attention. Although the Boston bombings have dominated the news headlines many other tragedies have been unfolding alongside: 31 killed and 200 injured in bombings in Iraq; an earthquake on the Iraq and Turkish border and then another earthquake in Sichuan China that has left 207 dead, and 11,500 injured, a place that saw 70,000 killed in 2008; and North Korea continues to threaten war. Two other stories that were brought to my attention but went below the radar were very different: the first was an account of teenage girls being sold in India as ‘one month brides’ to Muslim men from the Middle East and Africa in a new form of sex tourism; the second was the coverage of the trial in the USA of Kermit Gosnell who is accused of eight counts of murder including seven newborns that were born alive but deliberately killed after birth in late abortions.
Why write about this litany of suffering? Is it because I am in a particularly depressive frame of mind? We all know that this human suffering is continual, the weeks that it fails to reach our ears doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening somewhere. We know the capacity for human evil is immense. We know that earthquakes and natural disasters continue to flaw us. We know that political regimes can inflict horror on their populations. I have just been reading the history of North Korea with one of my children and what has happened to the church there feels almost beyond description in its barbarity. Most of the time we filter this sort of information -we put our blinkers on.
When my father died I can remember walking down a high street and seeing everyone as mortal. I felt as though my eyes had been opened and the reality of death and the brevity of life was shouting out loud to everyone – just as C.S. Lewis said ‘suffering is God’s megaphone to a deaf world’. The feeling passed as it must and that heightened sense of mortality dissipated. Yet I have been reminded this week that somehow as Christians we need to regularly take our blinkers off – our Lord seated at the right hand of the Father never has them on. He sees the world in its completeness, the good, the bad and the ugly.
But it wasn’t the news that reminded me to keep looking at the reality of this world it was listening to something Professor Richard Dawkins said in a debate with Professor John Lennox. Richard Dawkins is able to be amazed at the extent and complexity of the universe. As he studies it he is in awe but when a Christian talks about a God who made this universe coming into the world to die as a man it staggers him because he cannot understand that fact as anything other than ‘petty’. I was staggered by his choice of word, ‘petty’ seeing the cross as trivial! Then I realised how blinkered and blind he is to the extent of human evil and injustice. The need to judge justly the sin of this world was our greatest need and the fact that our great creator God came to deal with the horror of our wickedness is the least petty thing in the whole of human history.
Like Dawkins we too might be tempted to forget this while we live our lives caught up in our small worlds with our blinkers on. If we don’t sometimes look at the truth of this world we will not understand the cross. But when we look at the cross we can know our God is just, he does punish sin and rescue sinners - the most important and best news story ever told.