“Why do they do what they do?” This question was asked by Vice President Joe Biden this past Wednesday at the public memorial service for MIT Officer, Sean Collier, who was shot and killed by the marathon bombers a week ago. He echoed the major question now being addressed in the ongoing investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings: what was the motive? How did two apparently “normal,” nonviolent young men become radicalized jihadists?
While authorities wait for answers from the hospitalized younger brother, Dzhokar Tsarnev, psychological experts are offering hypotheses. Some suggest that the brothers had not made a good adjustment to life here and had a confused identity, feeling alienated, lonely and helpless. It is not unusual for such persons to identify with groups who feel oppressed and that their frequent visiting of jihadi extremist websites may indicate they were seeking group identification.
This may be accurate, but still does not explain how someone moves from online identification with a hate group to acting out violent terrorism. Especially disturbing is the knowledge that the brothers put together devices deliberately designed to kill and maim as many people as possible, calmly walked into a crowd of innocent bystanders, deposited their bombs, and next day resumed ordinary life activities. People at a loss to understand such malevolent behavior label it “evil.”
I think the label “evil” is more accurate than most people realize. Jesus made it clear that in the unseen spiritual dimension there is warfare. Satan hates the human race and seeks only to steal from us, kill and destroy us (John 10:10a) Whenever he can, Satan enlists the help of human beings in his warfare. He doesn’t do it openly, but under the wire of awareness through deceit. From the beginning, Satan has always operated this way.
Jesus called Satan “the father of lies,” and indicated that he always twists the truth to his own advantage. Deception is Satan’s most lethal weapon, for under its cover he can so confuse people’s thinking that they actually believe their violence is a good act in combating great societal evil.
Sound impossible? It’s not! Satan has been practicing these tactics on the human race for thousands of years, and history demonstrates that he’s duped human beings countless times. Hitler and Stalin are two prime examples from the 20th century. Both had a vision of how society could be improved, and neither one regarded themselves as evil men. The holocaust of human death they each left behind could never be described as anything other than pure evil.
But Satan is at warfare with all of us, using the same tactic of deception. He uses negative circumstances we encounter to rob us of our happiness and destroy our feelings of self-worth. He lies to us by encouraging thoughts of inferiority, hopelessness, fear and worry, depression etc. to recycle endlessly through our minds. Under his attack, we lose sleep, develop grudges, become resentful, ruminate on negative events and lash out at others in anger. All the while we think this is only our own thoughts and feelings, never suspecting Satan’s outside influence on us.
The Bible describes this deception of Satan as erecting “strongholds” in our minds and warns us to dismantle them. The apostle Peter also warns us “Be alert and of a sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to attack.” (1 Peter 5:8)
You are at war whether you realize it or not. Your enemy is cunning, and you need to be aware of his tactics, for we have been given power over him through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Come join us this Sunday at 9:00 AM or 11:00 AM. We are concluding our series on “Spiritual Warfare,” and my topic this week is “Personal Deliverance.”