Unrest, strife, murder and war are rampant in various parts of the world; disease is still ravaging lives; starvation exists even in our own decadent and wealthy country; Christians are in the media for sex scandals, sex addiction, financial greed and back-biting; politicians with a Messiah complex are promising new methods and new hope; and we have barely scratched the surface. These are merely a few issues about which we are aware.
Henri Nouwen astutely comments:
The world lies in the power of the evil one; there's nothing new about that. We don't have to get panicky about the fact that there is so much evil ... St John said that whilst in the world, we live with the mystery that the world is in the power of the evil one. That is why Satan says to Jesus, "You can have it all, it's mine anyhow." Jesus doesn't say, "That's not true." He says, "But I don't want it." So the point is how, in a world that is evil, do we create places that allow us to get a glimpse of God's goodness, of God's love?
St Peter writes: "Since all these things [all of life and the world] are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God?" (2 Pet. 3:11, 12 NRSV) If we are to live in holiness then we will have to learn how to be in the world but not of it. (John 17:16; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:12; 3:18, 19, 20) Those who are of the world care solely for the events of the world. We as followers and disciples of Jesus are called to be active in the world, in a redemptive sense (Matt. 5:13, 14, 15, 16), but not to be caught up in the affairs or politics or scandals of the world. God is constantly, through His Spirit, calling us away from the place of that world to a place of confident stillness in His presence.
I will never understand people, including professing Christians, who thrive on drama, gossip, and the latest scandal. How could one's spirit feed on the wickedness, the depravity, and the rampant sin in the Church and in the world without breaking away from it in order to give thanks to God for His goodness, grace, and mercy; to adore and love on Him for extending that goodness, grace, and mercy to such wretched creatures as us; and to worship Him -- give Him honor and praise for His inherent worthiness -- as an act of pure devotion? If nutritionists are correct, and we are physically what we eat, then the same must be true spiritually: we become upon what we feed our hearts, minds, and souls.
Again, Nouwen writes:
I have a feeling that we need to turn everything upside down. We are always surprised by darkness. A certain darkness is brought about by evil. If you listen to the radio, or watch television every night, you see the news. You see that the world is in the power of the evil one. We keep telling people, "Look what happens, isn't it terrible? Isn't it awful? Isn't it incredible?" We keep being surprised by evil, but we should be surprised by goodness.
There is a quiet place of rest for your heart, your mind, and your soul in the stillness and presence of God. Rather than be shocked by evil we should be shocked by grace. Rather than be startled by sin we should be startled by God's righteousness. According to Nouwen, and I think he is correct, rather than be surprised by evil we should be surprised by goodness. Some suggest that they cannot believe in a good God because of all the evil in the world. Are they suggesting that if the world were full of goodness then they would be obliged to believe in God? Doubtful.
But there is a world where goodness, righteousness (rightness), and purity reigns supreme. That place is the very presence of God. One day soon God's world and our world will collide. "Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb [Jesus Christ] will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever." (Rev. 22:3, 4, 5) Everlasting goodness (rightness, righteousness) will be established forever (Dan. 9:24). God calls us to believe not in this world but in the world to come.
If you think you cannot believe in a good God because of the fallenness and brokenness, sin and evil of this world, keep in mind that God declared this world good before we brought about this calamity (Gen. 1:25, 31). Blaming God is quite the misplaced blame. We deserve the blame, not God, not the redeemer of this world Jesus Christ. Because of our stubborn disobedience, what should absolutely cause us immense wonder is not evil, but the goodness of God on our behalf. We can trust Him and we can thank Him and we can praise Him that we get to enjoy Him and His goodness in this fallen world before He brings about justice in the earth forever.
This post was written by William Birch. You can find his blog here: http://www.williambirch.net