On July, 22, just over a month ago my family took a tour of Barcelona. We checked into the Hotel Cuatro Naciones on La Rambla. We ate Paella at a café and wandered up and down the street.
Yesterday terrorists attacked by mowing down pedestrians on La Rambla for blocks, right where we walked, ending just before our hotel.
Terror attacks are sadly common in the news these days. Usually they seem sad, but far away. Somehow the fact that the dust of that street still clings to my sandals changes things for me. Having been there recently makes this place real to me. The people who died or were injured are real too because it could have been me. It could have been my family. I am not sure what I feel. Sadness, of course, but heightened and numb at the same time. I know that makes no sense. Terrorism makes no sense. Evil makes no sense. That street and this attack is vivid for me, like a filter has been removed.
I am aware of an uneasiness inside when talking about terrorism or evil of any kind for that matter. It is clear that this world is not as it should be. How can I reconcile my wholehearted belief in a good God who reigns with the pictures on the news and their similarity to the pictures in my own vacation photos?
I look to see what Jesus said about it. But the passage in Luke 13:4 leaves me with questions unanswered. Jesus didn’t explain (he often didn’t fully explain things…) why tragedies happen. He only said bad things don’t happen to people because they are bad. He stops much too quickly to satisfy my questions.
Saint Augustine said, “When we come to Judgement day not only will the judgements passed there seem to be most just, but all the judgements of God from the beginning will be likewise clearly fair. Then too it will also become clear how just the judgement of God is in causing so many — in fact, almost all– of his judgments to evade men’s grasp of understanding.” (quoted in The Good and Beautiful God, p. 47)
I trust that Augustine is right. Someday up will be up and down will be down again. Someday I will understand why this was allowed and how God is going to set things right. Usually I am a bit uncomfortable discussing the wrath of God. Today I am glad that though God is patient, he is also just.
In his terrific book, The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith says,
Wrath is a right and necessary reaction to evil. “God is fiercely and forcefully opposed to the things that destroy his precious people. …It is a sign of God’s love. ” (p.121)
God is patient, and kind. He is the very definition of love. Today I am glad that his love includes justice against evil, whatever that means…