Aleppo: A Christmas to Remember

The tragic events in the Syrian city of Aleppo are having a significant impact on the rest of the world (at least they should). We have no shortage of misfortune and sorrow on this earth. Even TV commercials convey those sad facts to us.

Every day we see images of mistreated animals, hospitalized children, and heartbroken parents. There are constant pleas from benevolent organizations asking for help in the fight against cancer, aids, and world hunger. Terror attacks and inner-city shootings just add to the despair we often feel.

The Aleppo tragedy seems to encapsulate all of human suffering for us. I suppose this is, in part, due to the season in which it has come to a climax. But no matter when things like this occur, they are stark reminders of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity.

“You’ve been living in an ivory tower…”

If you haven’t seen pictures of the orphaned children of Aleppo, you’ve been living in an ivory tower somewhere (without satellite). The city looks like the aftermath of an apocalyptic battle scene. The devastation is unspeakable.

Forces have been fighting for control of Aleppo over the past four years. Cease-fires don’t seem to work, and the citizenry is caught in the middle. It’s painful to look merely at the photos. Actually being there must be agonizing. The people survive day-by-day in fear for their safety and often without access to some of the staples of life.

In situations like these, the question is often asked, “Where is God in all of this?” Indeed. Where is God? How can he allow so much suffering? Why doesn’t he simply snuff out the bad guys?

“Jesus came to save us from ourselves…”

I suppose the largest deterrent to God not snuffing out the bad guys is really simple. All of us are the bad guys. When approached on the subject, Jesus said, “No one is good but God.” (Mark 10:18) The fact of the matter is that’s why Jesus had to come. We always depersonalize it somewhat by saying Jesus came to save us from our sin. That’s true enough. But it could also be stated this way: Jesus came to save us from ourselves.

Aleppo is another example of what human beings are capable of when they are out of God’s will. Jesus not only came to die for our sin, he came to show us a better way to be—a better way to live.

In the book of Judges, there is a statement that has always haunted me. It says that in those days, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) The every-man-for-himself attitude will always result in the eventuality of tragedies like Aleppo.

Some may say that Christmas is a lousy time to have to watch the devastation in Syria. Actually, if we have to see it at all, Christmas is probably the best time. At least at Christmas, we seem to be more attuned to the needs of others. May we begin to do what is right in Christ’s eyes rather than our own.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]

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