On July 16 of this year, two Chattanooga military locations were attacked by a lone gunman named Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez. Five American service men along with were gunned down during the attack. Also Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez was also killed.
This attack shocked all of us. I remember driving back home from a meeting in Alabama that day with the whole family. When we got word what was going on, we were not sure if it was safe to return to the Chattanooga area. We did not know what we were coming home to. Later, as we watched coverage on TV of the tragic scene, the overarching question was “Why? Why did this young man do this?”
Over the next few days and weeks, investigators combed over his belongings and more information about Abdulazeez began to come out. Back in April of this year, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. This along with his drug use drove him deep into guilt, because it could not be reconciled with his Muslim faith. According to law enforcement officials reviewing his personal computer, Abdulazeez was searching Islamic materials about whether martyrdom would lead to forgiveness for his sins. It seems the driving force behind the attack was a desperate attempt to be reconciled to God, to be forgiven for sins committed, to silence the conscience of an accusing heart.
How unutterably sad is this story. What lengths a person will go through to find forgiveness of sin. King David was a man that was equally guilty of sin, cursed by its condemnation and desperate to find relief. David was a man that had experienced the full force of a tsunami of sorrows.
And yet he is the author of Psalms 32:1
Psalms 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
This is a psalm whose first notes are a serenade of sweetness! How can such a man of sin and sorrows sing for us such a song of delight and joy? How can a man convicted by such carnal crimes rejoice in such words of happiness? David found it through admission instead of attack. He found it through repentance as opposed to rage. He found it through mercy instead of martyrdom.
The saddest thing about Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez story is that forgiveness, complete and absolute cleansing of sin was available in Jesus Christ. Only the gospel of Jesus offers the vilest of sinners complete and absolute forgiveness of sin. Christ suffered the death that we deserved because of our sins, in order to extend the offer of absolution of sin to all who believe.
The story of Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez is a sad reminder of the lengths this world will go to find the forgiveness of sin. Whether in tavern or temple; in monastery or mosques, in a club or a chapel, people all around the world are looking for the assurance of the forgiveness of sin in deeds and doctrines; in actions and allegiances; when all the while that assurance is found in only one person Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…
On July 16, as Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez drove from his Hixson home outside Chattanooga Tennessee, I wonder how many Christian churches he passed by on his way to do this dastardly act of violence. Whether in sign or steeple, Christian Church after Christian church dotted his path like sovereign sentinels of God’s mercy and grace. The forgiveness Mohammod longed for was so very close at hand and yet gone unheeded; maybe our sentinels stand too silent; maybe our message is too mixed; maybe our efforts are too aimless. Whatever the reason, let what took place and the motivation behind it be all the more reason to let our light so shine before men… and that forgiveness is available through God’s son Jesus Christ.