On Acknowledging and Transcending Evil – A Message to the Church

The Nazi party came to power in a Christian nation, and church leaders participated in the Rwandan genocide. How do we deal with that?

CIRCA 1933: Rare German vintage cigarette card from the 1933 Der Staat der Arbeit und des Friedens album, Part 2, Picture 155.

As often happens with me, disparate things I have read recently gel together in ways that provide insight. One of those things I read a number of weeks ago. It was a piece written about the effect of Christianity (or lack thereof) on Nazi Germany. I don’t have a citation anymore.

The other piece I read today, I Met the Man Who Killed My Entire Family, by Katelyn Beaty, Christianity Today (Aug. 2017), summarizing an interview with Immaculee Ilibagiza about her experience with the Rwandan genocide. Aside from the harrowing details and utterly transformative reality of real forgiveness, this statement jumped off the pages at me: “United Nations tribunals have found many church leaders guilty of murdering neighbors or aiding Hutu in hunting down Tutsi and moderate Hutu.”

How could that be?! About one million people were killed in Rwanda, a country about the size of Maryland, and “the Church” was not only complicit in the killings by looking the other way; it was directly involved!

That is a hard reality for believers to accept, but we need to grasp the reality of it. Church leaders, not just people who sat in the pews, were directly involved in the Rwandan genocide.

We might be tempted to discount the conclusions of the United Nations, which is not a particularly faith-friendly institution, but I think that is a mistake. I felt the same way reading the account of the Christian influence in Nazi Germany.

To be sure, some of the conclusions of the author of the article about Nazi Germany were unfair and (I believe) misinformed, but that doesn’t mean there was no truth in it. I came away having to acknowledge that I can no longer claim that the Nazi influence in post-World War I Germany was grounded solely in atheism.

Reality is more complicated than that, and we (the church) need to be careful of glossing over painful realities that don’t fit into how we see ourselves. The recent exposure of the problem of sexual abuse among Southern Baptist churches is another example. We can’t turn a blind eye to evil in the church just because it doesn’t line up with the way the church ought to be.

If something doesn’t line up with the commands of Christ to love others as ourselves and the litmus test, “they will know us by our love”, we should be all the more vigilant to acknowledge the short falling and quick to respond appropriately – especially if the failure arises in the Church!

I think part of the danger, as we might learn from Nazi Germany, is that we see ourselves as the “good” people. We tend to think that evil is “out there”. Other people are evil. The church is just as susceptible to this thinking as anyone… maybe even more so!

I believe the Gospel message is hurt more by our silent refusal to acknowledge evil, even when it might arise “in the church”, than it would be by quick and candid acknowledgment and appropriate responses. I think we do the Gospel a disservice when we fail to acknowledge evil that arises in the church, and by failing to acknowledge it we become complicit with it.

Continue reading “On Acknowledging and Transcending Evil – A Message to the Church”

No Greater Evil. No Greater Love.

The evil that we suffer is no greater than the evil God endured at the hand of His own creation

Depositphotos Image ID: 71058433 Copyright: photographee.eu

Has there ever been a greater evil in the world then this?

God humbled himself to become a man, divesting himself of all of his greatness and glory, and became obedient to his own tune. The light came into the world, but the world loved darkness instead. God became a man, and men who God created rejected him. God presented himself to us, and we crucified him, publicly humiliating him, cruelly beating and torturing him, mocking him as he died on the cross.

Is there no greater love than this?

God, the creator of the universe became one of us. He laid aside all of his greatness that sets Him above everything that He created and become part of His creation. That he would do that for us, experiencing the same sorrows, the same humiliation, the same awful pain, the, the same rejection, the same fatigue and need for sleep and hunger and thirst as we experience. That God would stoop to become one of us and to die on a cross as a sacrifice for us to redeem us from our own sinful ways that include rejecting the very God who created us.

That God would do these things reveals to us that he works in and through a sinful, fallen, and evil world, and He uses the very darkness of the world to display His light and His love for us. God stands above and beyond time, surveying all that is, all that ever was, and all that ever will be. He knew the time of His coming before the initial burst of the creation of the cosmos that spawned the earth and eventual life it would contain, including us. He knew the time of His dying at the hands of His very creation. He knew the time of His rising from the dead, and He knows the end He has planned out for all those who receive Him.

Just as God’s light shone in the darkness of the world in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can take comfort in the hope of salvation God wrought for us and the promises that await us.

The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will

Why did God allow us a choice that would lead to our own corruption?

depositphotos Image ID: 135430388 Copyright: KrisCole

I am reading a book by Clay Jones called Why Does God Allow Evil? I highly recommend it. The “problem of evil” is one of the more challenging questions that we face in life, and difficulties struggling with that question have led many people to abandon or refuse to embrace faith in God.

Why does God allow pain and suffering? If God is good, how can He allow people to suffer? Why doesn’t God stop evil? If God exists, why does He allow evil to exist? These are just some of the variations of the problem of evil.

The problem of evil is a challenge for every worldview. Responses include that there is no God, and that’s just the way it is (a naturalistic world view); evil is just an illusion of unenlightened souls (a Buddhist or eastern view); evil is result of bad karma (Hindu); or evil is the result of rebellsion against God – sin (Christian). We all struggle with the conviction that things simply aren’t the way they ought to be. That Utopian disconnect urges us to ask, “Why not?”

I think, personally, that the Christian worldview makes the most sense of this question. It begins with the story of God and Adam and Eve. Whether the story is allegorical or historical, the answer involves God’s purpose in creating man, man’s finite, corruptible character (compared to God’s infinite, pure character) and a plan to develop this corruptible creature (man) who is created in God’s own image into a pure, loving relationship with God that is defined by God’s pure character, and not the corruptible nature of man.

Continue reading “The Problem of Evil and Mystery of Will”

Deliver Us From Evil

Lewes_Guy_Fawkes_Night_Celebrations_(2)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1570186


“Deliver[i] us from evil[ii]” (Matt. 6:13) Is how the prayer Jesus taught us to pray aptly ends. Aptly because God’s end goal is deliverance of His children from evil, and not just deliverance from evil, but deliverance to God and His purpose.

Literally, this phrase in the original text means “draw us to Yourself (our Deliverer) and, thereby, deliver us from the pain and misery of evil”. God does not simply seek to deliver us from our troubles caused by the sin that entangles us: He delivers us to Himself for His divine purpose. Continue reading “Deliver Us From Evil”

Were They Greater Sinners?

Depositphotos ID: 79363772 Copyright: mikdam [editorial use only]

“[D]o you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were greater sinners[i] than all the men who live in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4)

Before you read ahead and I give the answer, consider that this statement was made in the middle of very seemingly harsh statements by Jesus. Continue reading “Were They Greater Sinners?”

The Face of Evil

Man in the MirrorHe was 19 years old. He went to an ethnically diverse, upscale high school near Harvard. He was a popular kid, a good athlete, very bright, well-liked. He graduated high school early and was studying to be a doctor. He killed three people, critically wounded dozens and injured many dozens more … We want him to be a monster! But “he was a good kid“.

Listening to the reflections on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from his classmates and others who knew him and looking at his graduation photo leaves me perplexed. The rage and anger that arises from my gut at the sight of the bombing victims somehow does not match the image that comes from the reflections of people who knew him. It does not fit neatly into my black and white compartments. I want to hate him, but I see a person who seemed like just “a good kid”.

Smart, popular, athletic, young … what happened!!!?

Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper all conjure up images of pure evil. Despicable, villainous, ugly, blackened souls, with no redeeming value. The depth of their depravity seems cavernous. We loathe them. We spit on their graves. We cannot imagine what possessed them.
Continue reading “The Face of Evil”