Recently the civil war in Syria and America’s possible military intervention has been occupying a lot of time in the headlines. Attention is focused in both national and international news on President Obama’s request that Congress approve military action in response to the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21st. The death tolls from that specific attack are estimated in the hundreds, possibly as many as 1,400, but the total casualties from the two-year long civil war are around 100,000.
How do we as Christians think about and respond to this kind of human suffering and evil? Let’s be honest – it’s difficult to process something like this Christianly, isn’t it? I find it easy to alternate between two easier, but unhelpful, responses. It’s easy to have a partisan political reaction and simply “toe the party line,” supporting whoever you voted for. It’s easy simply to ignore the situation as long as it doesn’t affect you personally. Those are easy ways to process it – but they don’t ultimately deal with the realities of life in a fallen world, life that includes things like civil wars and sarin gas attacks. Let me suggest four Christians “lenses” through which we can think about this situation.
The ultimate problem is human sinfulness. Without a worldview that includes God, we’re left straining to explain how humans do such horrible things as gas one another. Is it a lack of education? Is it poverty? Is it rage against injustice and oppression? No, not ultimately. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve rebelled against God; in Genesis 4, the blood of the first murder victim stained the earth. Every tear of sorrow, every crime, every war in human history can be traced back to our rebellion against God. Claiming to be wise, we have become fools. Hating God in our hearts, we hate one another as well (Titus 3:3). Yes, in a situation like Syria there are multiple layers of injustice and wrong committed by both sides. But underneath the entire problem is the seething enmity between God and man. Civil wars come from human sinfulness.
Governments have a role in restraining the effects of sin. With so many discouraging headlines, it’s to become cynical about any government. But we as Christians can’t give in to that temptation. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 make it clear that one way God restrains human evil is through the gift of government. While I don’t pretend to know what the right political solution to a problem like Syria is (and in a fallen world there are often no good solutions, only the “least worst” solution), it is right for President Obama and other world leaders to attempt to address the situation. Having said that…
Only King Jesus can bring true peace. Until the Lord returns there will be wars and rumors of wars. Governments can restrain human sinfulness; they cannot eradicate it. Only the second coming of our King can finally deal with the problem of sin. On that day justice will be done. On that day peace will finally come. The sins of every human being, great and small, will either be covered by the blood of Christ or charged to the humans who committed them. There are no utopian solutions to our problems in this world, and we of all people should see through shallow claims of false redeemers.
So Christians should pray. We have access to the one Ruler who can actually accomplish his purposes! Pray for peace in Syria, even though all human peace is limited. Pray for God to save men and women through this suffering. Pray for our brothers and sisters in Syria. And pray with those brothers and sisters: come Lord Jesus!
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