Love in the Face of Evil

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I woke up this morning to the same notifications on my phone that you did..."mass shooting"..."58 dead"..."over 200 injured". My heart sank as I read more of what transpired over night at a concert in Las Vegas. My gut reaction was "how much more Lord Jesus can we take?". It is easy when faced with the brokenness of this world, especially as seen in tragedy, to ask that question. How much can we take? How much pain? How much crisis? 

Today we are asking that question, and it is ok to ask it. Today we grieve with those families that have lost loved ones, and it is right to grieve with them. Today we are angry at evil, and it is understandable. We want to do whatever we can to eliminate evil acts, and those that would commit them. I remember in the days following 9/11 thinking things like, "Lets just bomb all of those that don't like us, at least we will limit these heinous acts!" We want justice, we want retribution, we want things to be set right. In the face of evil we are reminded that this world isn't as it should be, and we want things fixed, evil eliminated, however that would be.

But God is teaching me that because of who he is, I can't respond to evil with more of the same. He is teaching me that my call in the face of evil, even as ludicrous as it sounds, is to love. For those that have placed their faith in Jesus, love is the only response in times like these. We are called in the face of evil acts to display the love of God that has already defeated evil. 

How do we do this? I think Jesus laid out a pretty good model for us. Wherever he went, when faced with the sickness, tragedy, or brokenness that comes with evil he didn't ignore it or the pain of those hurting. He took compassion on them. The church should first show love in the face of evil by standing with those effected by evil. By grieving with those that are grieving, caring for the needs of the hurting, and bringing the presence of God into every situation. We are called to hurt with the hurting. We are to take compassion. 

But also, when faced with evil, Jesus didn't allow himself to agree with the lie that evil had won. No matter the situation, he knew because of who his Father was, that evil had not won. I know, there are days like today that it doesn't seem like evil is defeated. Also, when grieving with those that lost loved ones to evil acts, we have to be careful in how we care for them because our statements about evil being overcome don't bring much comfort to their current loss. But over all, as the church, the redeemed people of God, those made new by the grace of God seen in Jesus on a cross, we know that evil actually lost the battle that day He went to the cross. Jesus on the cross defeated the works of Satan (1 John 3:8). We know, even in times when it seems as if evil is winning, it hasn't, it has been defeated. This gives us permission to not respond to evil with evil, but with love. 

We are living in the already but not yet. The already of the victory of Jesus, but the not yet of its full implication. As followers of Jesus we are not to agree with the lie that evil has won, but through acts of love, even to the point of giving our own life, declare to the world that love has won. With lives submitted to Jesus through his Spirit, we are to declare God's Future NOW in the Present. We are to look at evil and not be tricked to respond in kind, rather declare the cross of Jesus to it. Evil might seem to have won in the moment, but we know it hasn't. We are to be Ambassadors of love! 

Remember, every time we choose to love in the face of evil we are declaring to the world that evil has already been defeated! When we refuse to shut ourselves off from caring for people we are declaring that evil has not won. When we open our lives to care for the "other" even it it may seem risky, we are declaring to evil that it has not scared us into living less than human, but in Jesus we are going to love! Our actions of love in the face of evil declare evil's death! 

God is calling the church to love in a way that shows God's future in the present. For the kingdom of love Jesus initiated to be seen as the truest reality, not evil. Let us display the cross of Jesus today.  

 

 

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Benjamin Thomas

Husband and father of 4. Founding and Lead Pastor of Nehemiah Project Church in Avon Indiana. Academic Chaplain at Indiana Wesleyan University. Adjunct Professor of Spiritual Formation at Wesley Biblical Seminary.