“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
“Broken people do broken things.”
I first heard this nugget of wisdom form a funeral home director. He and I were riding in the hearse to a graveside service after having left the funeral home and a family that was fighting with each other. I don’t remember why they were fighting (probably something to do with inheritance), but I was visibly shaken and the director could tell. I remember asking why they couldn’t get past their difference for at least an hour and be civil with one another during the service, and that’s when he said it, “Broken people do broken things.”
I don’t think he meant it to excuse their behavior, but perhaps to change my perspective on the world. The world is full of broken people. Some have managed to put a good spin on their brokenness, their sins are the acceptable kind that are given a wink by society. For others, their brokenness is clear for everyone to see, and often that brokenness is worn as a “red badge of courage.”
Hasn’t the brokenness of the world reared its ugly head this week? Over the weekend we heard of ISIS having beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians , and this just after the news of the death of Kayla Mueller, the burning of the Jordanian pilot, their names added to a very long list of victims of horrible terror . (I read just this morning of another report that ISIS had burned to death another 45 people in an Iraqi town.) There was the shooting rampage in Denmark, the foiled terror plans in Canada, the murder of three students at the University of Connecticut. Add to that the horrible news coming from Lennox, SD, where I’ll soon be moving, of a gunman who shot two people and then killed himself – all because of an argument over a delivery.
It’s all the kind of thing that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning.
I make no effort to make sense of senseless violence. You cannot explain or rationalize brutality like this. Sometimes, all it feels you can do is throw up your hands, keep your head down, and resign yourself to the fact that “lost people do lost things.”
But that is not the Christian message.
I don’t purport to have all the answers regarding evil and it’s place in the world. I must leave that discussion to better minds than mine. But I do believe that our faith has something important to say in the midst of such atrocities.
First, we must realize that evil is real, and we live in a fallen world. Since Adam’s fall, all the world has been subjected to futility, and creation itself awaits the revealing of the sons of God in which it too will be released from its bondage to corruption (see Romans 8). Suffering and violence, natural disasters and wars, these are symptoms of a greater sickness, namely, we live in world that subjected to corruption because of man’s sin and rebellion from God.
Second, I believe Scripture teaches that God has a purpose in everything, including the evil we face in this life. Often it is hard to see and difficult to understand – and we may never find in this life the ultimate meaning that is hidden in the heart of sorrow, disappointment, and grief. But we remember the words of Joseph to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20). Even more, we see God’s providence working even in the death of Jesus Christ, who was holy and without sin, the greatest tragedy ever committed on the face of the earth, and yet through His death and resurrection, we find the salvation of all who would call upon His name (Acts 3:13-16).
Finally, we must remember, evil does not have the last word. Though their powers may flare and cause us to tremble, though
this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear for, God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.
We abound in hope, even in the face of evil, tragedy, and loss. We abound in hope because we know that because Christ has been raised in victory over death, those whose lives are hidden in Him have received that victory as well. We know that no matter what we face, even if we are handed over for tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or the sword, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…” and nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31-39).
In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Christ has overcome! Therefore, in good times and in bad, let us look to Him that we may be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).