Just need to get this out. It could be considered a rant, but it is more of me really thinking through with as level as my head can get around the orlando shooting, and so many other expressions of evil we’ve seen in our world this year and last year.
The problem of evil is always and will continue to be a reality in this world until a cosmic event like the return of Christ of a meteorite hits. So, when events occur that starkly remind us of the pain and utter heartache that evil thrusts upon us, it makes everyone hyper aware of injustices and the unbalances of joy and grief.
I’ve noticed a few common responses (on social media and in-person):
- Anger –
Anger as by-product of pain and frustration is a very normal response. In the good cases it is found with righteous anger, an expression of not being OK with injustice, but seeing healthy ways to express it through love (not cheep love, not cheep grace, but grace and love, none-the-less).
In the unhealthy cases this anger seeps into the selfish self and usually ends in attacks upon those that are different than ourselves, and usually feel, and sound no different than the expression of evil that stirred up all up in the first place. I’ve also seen attacks towards people that have many more similarities than they do differences, but for some reason those few differences are magnified and lifted up well above the similarities.
These attacks come around the issues of gun control, religion, human sexuality, etc… These attacks fueled by an unhealthy anger will only perpetuate the evil. We must stop the mindless responses and think through how and why we respond.
Are our responses grounded in a desire to love others and bring hope, or are they to prove a point or to harm existing or potential future relationships?
- Depression –
When confronted with the problem of evil several people become overwhelmed by it. They see the utter shame and pain of it all and it consumes them into depression and anxiety. Then, when they are attacked by others mentioned above that they thought were friends and loved ones…. Those attacks are even more damaging.
For example, the words against “praying” in times of obvious evil. The logic goes, “stop hiding behind your prayer and actually do something” or “its religions that screw up this world, so stop your so called ‘praying’ and get something done” (I hear this from Christians just as much as from non-Christians. The guilt depressed people feel overwhelmed by these events, and then to have others attacking them for saying nothing is pain upon pain. Without a strong intentional community coming around the anxiety and depressed to offer the grace of love and support then evil will prevail, sadly.
Again, do you make responses with other people in mind, or do you allow your frustrations and anger determine how you will heal or hurt your relationships?
- Silence –
While in some cases silence is a form of ignoring the problem of evil, I have a feeling most of the time it is simply the immediate response to evil from those that avoid conflict or simply a desire to take the time to intentionally listen before voicing. Of course, if people are using silence as a way of hoping the pain will simply go away, then we need to help them with baby steps on how to put a little more action in their lives to balance out that prayer and contemplative silence.
I can’t help but think that this is the response of introverts. And while it is seemingly not helping the issues immediately, it could be from this kind of calculated response that long term understanding and passionate love through grace can be offered. Obviously, some issues look like they have been occurring for a very long time (gun control and terrorists), but it is usually the responses from those that have really spent time with an issue are the ones I respect and listen to the most. Besides, I’f always seen these issues as the larger problem of evil.
So, what could be possible responses that would emphasize a healthy way of responding to the problem of evil and these curtain opening events that show the realities of pain?
To Christians I say:
Always assume positive intent. Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. Seek to find the prevenient grace and prevenient presence of Christ within all the people you interact with whether they be Christian or not. You are not to make converts, you are to allow disciples to be formed through you providing opportunities for others to experience love and the presence of God. Let them be students of our faith and give them the space to work out if they’d like to choose Christianity as their spiritual major in life. You serve a Crucified God, and nothing within our faith suggests that the problem of evil will not still have consequences on this earth even though it has already been dealt with. Be patient in enduring the pain and evil in this world until the great return, and live lives that are leaning into the truth of hope and love that is found in our Trinity Godhead. Be slow to anger, quick in grace, and look for every opportunity to be love and hope in a hurting world. Make your life filed with prayer AND action, both are necessary acts of living out our faith.
To non-Christians I say:
I love you. I am deep enough in my faith that if you need to yell out your anger towards God or the church, please feel free to yell at me. Do you need a shoulder to cry on or ears to listen? Please know I want and will do everything in my power to be those for you. You can express to me what you would express to God, if God even exists (obviously, I’m a freaking pastor here, so you can assume I’m gonna be a little biased). And, please know not everyone is at a place of peace in the midst of pain and evil (especially Christians). So, you might have to reset your expectations when it comes to talking or dealing with them.
I’m so sorry if the church has hurt you and again, I love you.
I make a vow to you, myself, and “my” God that in all cases I will attempt to make sure my love will take precedence over my anger, frustrations, fears, anxiety, depression, my being offended, and my human tendency to emphasis our differences instead of seeking out the love and grace I believe is within each of us. Please know that I will need you to offer me grace and love in this attempt, because I know I will fail… often.
You should know that I will mention my love for my faith and the hope that it provides me, but I will not attempt to convert you. I will passionately desire for you to know and experience the same hope I have found in my relationship with the Trinity Godhead. Because, in my mind the greatest gift I can offer you or anyone is prayer and relationship. You don’t have to believe in God and you are more than welcome to call me an idiot, ignorant, or even stupid, but please look into my heart intentions and know that me offering hope in this world through relationship and prayer with/for you is one of my perceived greatest gifts I can offer. I am not alone in this matter, so if someone offers to be praying for you or for an specific instance of evil, please look at their hearts before you are fast to point out their ignorance or lack of your perceived reality. I personally might stay silent and not speak of “prayer” for you, because I wouldn’t want to offend you, but I want to respect you and your beliefs/thoughts.
Sadly, there are may other Christians that believe they are supposed to covert you, and I’m so sorry that they do not see the beautiful person you are, but only see you as something to convert. This is not the God that I serve, and in most of those cases, again they simply don’t know any better and they honestly think they are loving you by berating you.
In closing….. I love you. I love you Christians. I love you non-Christians. Thank you for honoring me in reading these words (even if I know most of you skimmed through them all). It’s OK, I get it, I’d probably do the same to your words, when they are this lengthy. But, I still and always will… love you.