Is Paris Burning?
Posted by Ravi Zacharias, on November 18, 2015
The layers that obscure the truth are burying humanity in large numbers. Yes, Paris was burning again and those flames and the dead bodies may well be a grim foreshadowing of what the future holds. I was in neighboring England the night the massacre scattered across Paris took place, as people going out to enjoy a dinner or concert or a football game were the targets of hate-filled and ruthless killers. The newspapers the next day had similar words: “Carnage”; “massacre”; “assassination”; “murder”; “blood”; “death”; “screams”; “terror,” and so on. Television programming was preempted and viewers were cautioned that some of the scenes of the slaughter were graphic. It was real. A few hours later, names and pictures of the dead were shown. It was like we had heard this before. But it was new and real: the victims’ lives cut short in the peak of their careers. Children who weren’t going to come home. People looking for their loved ones. Marriages suddenly broken by death. A young graduate with life ahead of her. And so on. One doesn’t have to know the individuals to feel helplessness and pain. This is twenty-first century murderous man. War in small increments can be deadlier than large scale war because it doesn’t just desensitize the killers; it desensitizes all of humanity.
Killers who do not represent a country and whose belief is debated ad nauseam as to whether it is a version or a perversion are truly sinister and are the cancerous cells of our time. They are protected by having no roots either in country or belief. The West is being taken down in small portions till one day the lie of the murderers being protected by smooth-talking power brokers with a bodyguard of lies will be seen for the terrifying belief that it is. No contrary view will be allowed then. For now, the layers of distortion cover the graves of the murdered. The whole world has become a courtroom where clever lawyers make truth unattainable. Whether it be 9/11 or the carnage at the Boston Marathon or blown-up planes or Paris, we will not find answers because to ask the question is either to receive a lie from some politicians or many in the media, or to invoke the wrath of hate-filled killers.
So we ask! What is the belief behind all this that kills with such callousness? We do not get any answers. We are told by some that it’s a religion of peace. Others call it a political theory at its core covered with the garb of religion to give it maximum protection as it invokes the laws of blasphemy. What is the answer? We had dare not unpack the truth. In one sense, strangely, one feels almost pity for these murderers. The possessor of hate loses the essence of life much more than the victim does. Living with a heart so deceived breeds a decimating misery within and spreads the venom globally. There must be scores of young men within the belief who do not wish to inflict such pain but who now live with the pall of suspicion over them. Such is the contagion of a poisoned soul.
But the quest for answers still haunts. In one Middle Eastern country, an awful thing happened. Two young Muslims turned atheists were on a program. They argued for the reality that blood had been spilled across the centuries and that there was no denying that from its earliest days to the present, this was the same blood-letting in the name of the belief as originally given and carried out. Then one of them asked the cleric a question that was as pointed as could be. It was a powerful question with an irrefutable fact within the question. The question laid bare a reality that was deemed blasphemous. The next day that man and his family were murdered, just for asking a fact-laden question that was unanswerable without conceding the truth. For that, he and his family paid with their lives.
That’s the depravity of our age. It is death to ask the pointed question because the answer, if true, betrays the real truth. The masquerade is on and it is deadly. We watch hundreds die. We hear speeches full of distortions; we tolerate deceit and even reward it. Some in power and in the public eye whitewash the reality while the blood of the murdered cries out from the ground. Our children and grandchildren will inherit the whirlwind because our media pundits and misguided speech-makers have sown to the wind by trading in lives for their power.
It would be easy to lose heart and become cynical. But No! There is One who sees all things, knows all things, and will ultimately triumph over all things. There is only one message that addresses the truth as the truth. The Lord of glory, Jesus Christ, came to this earth and was also the victim of hate. Lies sent him to the cross. Power overruled reality, as politics and religious demagogues once again made the lie seem noble. But the Lord who sees the beginning from the end amazingly conquered not in spite of the dark mystery of evil, rather, He conquered through it. James Stewart of Scotland, pointing to the cross, said it in the most powerful terms I have read. Commenting on the verse from Psalm 68:18, “He led captivity captive,” he said,
It is a glorious phrase—“He led captivity captive.” The very triumphs of his foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to subserve his ends not theirs. They nailed him to a tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne. They flung him outside the city gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up the gates of the universe, to let the king come in. They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy. They thought they had God with his back to the wall, pinned helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.
The lie has a shelf life. The truth abides forever. God can even conquer through our perversion.
One more thing. I would be remiss if I left the guilt and darkness out there. That is the seduction of a fake righteousness. We all have to look at our own hearts and see the evil that is within each one of us. Only then can we find the answer from which all other answers flow. Some time ago, I was in Romania. A sculptor had some of his works on display. One was a horrific, fierce-looking, long nail. When you picked it up, as rusty and jagged as the nail was, the head was polished and shiny. And when you looked at that polished head, you saw a reflection of yourself. It is sobering. Very sobering.
You see, the nails that cause hurt and pain and death ultimately point to our own hearts. Only when we as individuals see the evil that is within will we find an answer for the evil that is around us. Maybe, just maybe, someday a carnage will take place that might cause everyone in power to see their own hearts as God sees them and tell us the truth of what these killings are all about. Only then will truth triumph and we find real answers. Until then, the flames will gain ground and not just Paris will burn, but the next story of scorched lives in another city will make us forget this one… or possibly, awaken us to the cost of a lie. More than ever we need the Savior. Lord have mercy!