During the Vietnam War the U.S. averaged 150 dead a week for seven years. In World War II, we lost about 300 men every day for four years. In the Civil War, 400 Americans a day, Union and Confederate, died from the battle of Ft. Sumter (April 1861) to Appomattox (April 1865 when the South surrendered to the North at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia).
Or consider the genocides of the 20th century alone… Very recent history, quite frankly, in light of the whole of history.
Germans killing Jews during WW II (6 million); Turks killing Armenians in 1914-1915 (1.5 million); Stalin killing millions of people (no one really knows, so pervasive and horrific were his policies) in Russia during his Communist regime in the 1930s and 1940s; the Khmer Rouge killing Cambodians from 1975 to 1979 (2 million); Saddam Hussein’s troops killing Iraqi Kurds in 1987 and 1988 (100,000); Serbs killing Bosnian Muslims from 1992-1995 (200,000); Hutus killing Tutsis — most of them Jesus followers — in tiny Rwanda in 1994 in barely more than a month, often with machetes, (800,000) [all this in the tiny African country largely Christianized by well-meaning, hard-working Western missionaries].
You might look back on the horrors of recent decades and ask, “How can God allow such things?” or, “How can there be a God if such complete moral anarchy reigns?” Would any argue that the Nazi death-camps and Soviet Gulags were utterly anti-God? And though Hitler was born and brought up a Roman Catholic and Stalin was once a Russian Orthodox apprentice-monk, it is hard to imagine any two men in history who were more bereft of basic Christian instincts or more systematically committed to the destruction of Christian values.
And yet, experience shows that very few people do actually ask the above questions. Most people react to the horrors of war by turning to God for protection, solace and comfort, not cursing Him. When I think of the terror of the last 100 years alone, it really sobers me and makes me tremble at the prospect of living a trivial, self-serving, comfortable, middle-class, ordinary, untroubled American life.
In my early morning times of reading and praying during this Lenten season, I thought about these wars for a long time one day and started wondering why God hasn’t destroyed this world yet. How can he not, I wondered? Indeed, II Peter 3 says the destruction of the world by fire is coming. Still, the text insists that God is patient, not wishing to destroy anyone. A thousand years to us is just a day to God, says II Peter 3:8. Try to get your head around that.
As we prepare to celebrate the heart of our faith once again, we wait for his return. We wait and we watch. The truth is, the delay of Christ’s return actually is an act of mercy and patience. And in truth, reflecting on this dreadfully broken world during the Lenten season makes me exceedingly thankful for God’s mercy toward my family and me.
And yes, with joy in my heart for Jesus’ unfathomable love and for God’s mighty resurrection power, I will join the hundreds and hundreds of millions across the globe, in a very few weeks who rise on Easter morning and sing: “Christ the Lord has risen today.”
Christ the Lord is risen today
Sons of men and angels say
Raise your joys and triumphs high
Sing ye heavens and earth reply
Loves redeeming work is done
Fought the fight the battle won
Death in vain forbid Him rise
Christ has opened paradise
I will join them — all of us in one accord living by faith and not by sight — and say: “He is risen. He is risen indeed.”