Waking up that morning would have been the same as any other day. The conflict had been raging on for the last few years and life had to carry on. For many of the ordinary Japanese citizens in Hiroshima that day would be their last. Unknown to them the devastating destructive force of nuclear weapons would be unleashed for the first time before the eyes of an onlooking world.
Seventy years on we can look back and say that this day changed the world. This bomb shaped and fashioned the remainder of the 20th Century with many living in fear of the great super powers allowing tensions to bubble over into all out military conflict. We can also look back and express our horror at what was, and still is, one of the worst atrocities in human history.
And one of the first things that crosses my mind reflecting on this day is; “and God let that happen”? This is a huge one try and resolve, is it not. If we affirm that God is the sovereign Lord over everything in the universe, fully omnipotent and omniscient, as the Bible teaches (Isaiah 44:6-7), why does he not stop this?
In order to resolve this question it seems to me that we need to be very clear on one major point. God did not drop the bomb. Human actions in the midst of war vaporized people and cities. Often we wish to pass the ethical choices of humans onto God. But this is forgetting a big point. Divine sovereignty does not absolve human responsibility. Nowhere in the Bible will we find this.
Indeed it is the opposite. Consistently we see that humans make terrible ethical choices to further their own agenda or protect themselves, with the history of Israel providing numerous examples (1 Kings 16:34, 21:1-16, 2 Kings 6:28-31). Each of us have the responsibility before God for our actions. When we willingly choose to do that which is harmful and destructive we take upon ourselves the responsibility of the consequences which come as a result of our behaviour and actions.
Furthermore, the situation of Hiroshima, and subsequently Nagasaki, was made by humans. We were the ones who developed and nurtured the nuclear warheads in the first place. Our search for further power led to the production of mass destruction. There are striking tones with the garden of Eden at this point (Genesis 3). More power but without the capacity to use this justly and lovingly to the glory of God and the good of others.
So, to try and resolve this difficulty in my own mind I first of all examine my own heart and that of every other human on the earth. What I mean is this; we are all moral and ethical beings with the capacity to reason and conceive the course of action which is likely to bring about most harm. Effectively we know what we should do, but a staggeringly high percentage of the time we choose not to do it if it conflicts with our own agenda or security. In my mind the the question changes to this, “is God responsible for my ethical and moral behaviour or am I accountable to him?”. The biblical response to this must be that we are accountable to him.
On this day it is only right that we stop to think and remember what happened seventy years ago. It is good for believers in Christ to pray that this would not happen again. It is also good that we should pray for the nation of Japan. As the only land which has ever been attacked in this way it suffers the long term ramifications of such an event. Above all else it is good for God’s people to pray that Japan will increasingly hear the message of hope in the good news of Jesus and find in him an all sufficient saviour ready and willing to bind and heal wounds while bringing forgiveness and restoration.