Posts tagged ‘Explosion’

Disaster in Beirut

When I first saw the video footage out of Beirut, I, like so many, was horrified. As so many others have noted, what began as a raging fire turned into what looked like an atomic bomb explosion in the heart of Beirut’s harbor – complete with the mushroom cloud that literally knocked people down for miles around.

But it was not an atomic bomb. It was not an attack by some nefarious force or enemy nation. The culprit here was negligence. It is now being reported that at the site of the explosion, there were thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored alongside a cache of fireworks. How they got there is a case study in incompetence. The Guardian interviewed a former port worker, Yusuf Shehadi, who explained that the Lebanese military had demanded that the ammonium nitrate be housed there. Mr. Shehadi explained:

We complained a lot about this over the years. Every week, the customs people came and complained and so did the state security officers. The army kept telling them they had no other place to put this. Everyone wanted to be the boss, and no one wanted to make a real decision … The port workers did not put the chemicals there in the first place. That outrage rests with the government.

The fireworks stored there date back all the way to 2010, after customs confiscated them and needed a place to put them. Apparently, a decade was not long enough for customs to find a more suitable storage spot for the fireworks. In other words, this was a disaster waiting to happen. Of course, now that the disaster has happened, there is plenty of finger pointing, but little to no responsibility taking.

After history’s first disaster – humanity’s fall into sin – just like with Beirut, there was plenty of finger pointing, but little to no responsibility taking. When God discovers that Adam and Eve have eaten from the tree He had forbidden to them, both of them are quick to try to pass the buck:

The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13)

Sadly, this finger pointing did not solve anything. It only led to death – just like in Beirut. In that town, the latest death toll stands at 154 with more than 5,000 people injured.

When Jesus is on trial before Pontius Pilate, there is plenty of finger pointing going on. “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king,” some say as they point at Jesus (Luke 23:2). “He stirs up the people all over Judea by His teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here,” others accuse (Luke 23:5). And just like in the Garden and just like at Beirut, this finger pointing leads to death – Jesus’ death. But this death is different.

The prophet Isaiah says of Jesus’ crucifixion:

Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering. (Isaiah 53:4)

Rather than taking the fingers of His enemies and pointing them right back at them in their sin, Jesus willingly took up their finger pointing and he took up responsibility for the sinfulness and brokenness of the world.

It is unlikely someone will actually step up to take responsibility for this tragedy. In reality, no one person can. There are no doubt dozens if not hundreds of people who were complicit in this dangerous storage setup. And besides, no amount of human finger pointing or human responsibility taking will bring back those who have lost their lives in Beirut’s tragic explosion. There is only One who can take responsibility in a way that will actually solve this tragedy – in a way that will actually bring those who have lost their lives back in a resurrection. And His name is Jesus.

He takes responsibility for what we cannot.

August 10, 2020 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

A Week of Tragedies

Boston West TexasWhat a week it’s been.  Monday the headline was carnage at the Boston Marathon as a pair of terrorists planted and detonated two bombs, though they planted more, at the race’s finish line.  Three lost their lives.  More than 170 were injured.  I awoke Wednesday morning to the news that the tiny town of West, Texas, north of Waco, erupted in a fireball in an explosion in a fertilizer plant.  Dozens lost their lives because of this tragic accident.

On the heels of so much tragedy and loss of life, two questions inevitably arise, both consisting of just one word:  “How?” and “Why?”

“How did these two terrorists manage to plant numerous bombs at the finish line of a major race in seemingly plain sight with so many law enforcement officials standing by for any sign of trouble?”  “How did a small blaze at a fertilizer plant get so out of control in a literal split second?”  Investigators specialize in answering these “How?” questions.  Already, expansive and detailed investigations have been launched to try to figure out how these tragedies happened.

The “Why?” questions are a little tougher to answer.  “Why would someone premeditatedly work to cause so much pain and anguish in the bodies, hearts, and lives of so many?”  “Why would God allow any of this to happen?”

Though we have partial answers to our perennial “Why?” questions, our answers are inevitably incomplete because of our finite perspective.  But there are some things we can know and say in tragic times like these nonetheless.

First, we must say that tragedies like these are spawned because of sin.  The attacks in Boston are an example of the darkest corners of human depravity on display.  Two individuals took it upon themselves to actively break God’s law and our nation’s laws in order to coldly calculate a catastrophe.  The fertilizer plant explosion in West is an example of creation’s sinful brokenness.  Because we live in a world that has gone wrong (cf. Genesis 3:17-19, Luke 13:1-5), wrong things happen.

Second, we can also say that tragedies like these testify to God’s patience, albeit in a strange and backwards way.  After all, God is under no particular compulsion to allow this sinful world to continue on.  But He does.  Why?  Because He loves the people He has made and wants to give them as much time as possible to repent of their sinful state and turn toward Him.  As the apostle Peter reminds us, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

In the days ahead, steps will no doubt be taken to try to assure that the tragedies of this week will not be repeated.  This is good!  We ought to learn from tragedies like these for the sake of everyone’s safety and wellbeing.  But no matter how many steps we might take to try to guard against similar situations in the future, no human being can root out the underlying cause of all such situations:  sin.  Though we might be able to prevent a particular tragedy from happening again, we cannot take out tragedy’s foundation of sin. Only Jesus can do this.  Only Jesus can conquer the wickedness of this world and restore His creation and His people back to the way He originally dreamed and designed them:  perfect.

April 22, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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