Today, fanatical Muslims blow themselves up in crowded market places in the name of their god. They didn’t invent terrorism and are not alone in dishonoring their own religion by their actions. Christians, too, have been guilty. What else can serial murders of abortionists be called?
Many historians describe the tactics of radical abolitionist John Brown an injection of terrorism into American politics, and he though he was acting for God. The religious policies of Spanish King Philip II and Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II amount to state-sponsored terrorism in the name of God.
Not all wickedness is violent. Those who devise Internet scams, those who choose profits over human lives in board rooms, and any others who steal at long distance do not sin violently. And a certain percentage of them show up in church regularly
What does God himself have to say about people who take his name in vain in this way? Psalm 10 (quoted here from NIV) answers
1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.”
7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims
9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.”
The psalmist was especially concerned about violent wickedness and wondered at first if God even notices. Don’t we all ask where God is when we look at the trouble in the world? Wicked terrorists, drug lords, and so on commit atrocious acts against innocent people. Where is God? Other wicked people steal peacefully from their computers or from their boardrooms. Their scams and sharp business practices likewise prey on innocent people. Where is God? Has he gone into hiding? Does he not care? What’s he going to do about it? Here is the conclusion of the psalm:
12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, “He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.
16 The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land.
17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed, n order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
Here is where believers need to believe radically, to exercise faith. God sees. God takes the side of the victim when the victim commits himself to God. God is a powerful shield and defender for those who diligently seek him. God will last forever. The wicked will not. Trouble will not. God will cause them to cease. Anyone with a nodding familiarity with the stories in the Bible will recognize that even the most heroic characters in it, and perhaps they more than anyone else, suffer for a long time, clinging to their faith when it seems entirely pointless. And then, they receive their vindication.
God will last forever, outlasting not only wickedness, but the entire world. And here’s the secret: people will, too, because God has given all of us an eternal spirit. The world will end, perhaps with a bang, perhaps with a whimper. Evil will end with it.
Until then, the right question to ask is not “Where is God and what’s he going to do about the wicked.” It’s “Whose side am I on and how can I hold on to faith?” People who take God’s side and hold on to faith in spite of the works of the wicked will find ample evidence of his love and grace even in the midst of the worst troubles of their lives.