April 23, 2007
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12.21
I intended to use the weeks following Easter to examine ways in which the Resurrection has practical application to daily life. There is power at work in the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead that is available to us here and now – Resurrection power, the power of life, of love, of faith, joy, peace and goodness that the Spirit gives to those who ask. But this week, this week, we have had an overwhelming dose of death. The murders at Virginia Tech were surreal until pictures of the students began to appear. Suddenly, a mass murder became personal as the faces, interests and dreams of the victims flashed on the screen. Along with millions of others, I found myself unexpectedly grieved, tearful as I looked at the exuberant and expectant expressions on the faces of now-deceased young people.
Perhaps, however, there is no more practical application of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ than at this moment. In the face of an irrational, inexplicable, murderous storm, the certain promise that this world is not all there is, is a welcome and much-needed reassurance and consolation.
What we want is for our world to make sense, to be just and fair, and to give us the place and opportunity to live our lives happily and contentedly. When any event disrupts this expectation of ours – the expectation of a good life – we are left feeling fearful and insecure, especially when the disruption is of the magnitude, violence and rage we all witnessed last week. But the image of our world as reasonable or fair or secure is an illusion that belies the reality. This is the same world that crucified the Son of God, the perfect, just, loving and wholly good Savior of all people. When we wonder why it was necessary for Jesus Christ to be hung on a cross, we need only to review the events of last week.
The sins leading to the crucifixion of Jesus feel remote to us, but we are mistaken. Sin and evil have been renamed in our society, and in so doing, we have come to believe that we can tame them. Again, we are wrong. When they explode to the surface in a violent, murderous spree like that at Virginia Tech, we are at a loss to understand, to cope and to continue living, hoping and believing in good. The only true defeat of sin and evil occurs at the cross of Christ, not in legislation or therapy and certainly not in pretending sin and evil do not exist. Perhaps the greatest danger we face is our own unwillingness to identify and battle against sin and evil, whether in our world or in our own lives.
Our society suffers from what C.S. Lewis identified as chronological snobbery. We think we are somehow superior to prior generations. Undoubtedly, we have greater knowledge than was available in earlier centuries, but we do not possess greater wisdom. Arguably, we possess less. Aleksander Solzhenitsyn rightly observed that the line between good and evil runs through every human heart. The astonishment we express at the power of evil is a direct reflection of our personal lack of awareness of our own capacity for sin. Knowing that sin pervades these mortal bodies and sometimes gives way to evil generates necessary humility within us and leads us to the foot of the cross.
How do Christians respond now? Perhaps the single most important thing we can do is bring a big dose of reality into the conversation. Evil exists, and ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil.’ If we are to struggle against these, it seems like a good idea to acknowledge their existence.
The Resurrection is God’s victory over sin and evil – the very sin and evil displayed so horrifically last week. God chose to win through the power of love and the power of life, and we are to draw from that Resurrection power in our own struggle against sin and evil. Evil may have its day, but it will not prevail. When faced with its undeniable reality, we are wise to recall that this is the world God so loved He gave His only Son. The call to serve as a disciple is not an easy life of good things; it is service to harsh, undeserving world that includes you and me.
There is nothing for us to do about a mass murderer in Virginia, but we can make the choice to be intentional vessels of godly and Christ-like goodness in our world. We can love this world for which Christ died, and we can draw out the goodness in others by the power of Christ’s love and life. And when tragedy strikes, we should not be surprised. This is the same world that crucified Christ. Tragedy, violence, sin and evil should be the motivation to love all the more, to spread goodness far and wide – a lot like a light shining rays into the darkness.
In Christ –
© Servants’ Feast Ministry 2007