Amanda Perkins | 18
These letters were originally interspersed throughout Issue 2 as reflective addresses to the readers.
Bear with me a little longer and I will show you
that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
I get my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
Be assured that my words are not false; one who has perfect knowledge is with you.
God is mighty, but despises no one; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.
He does not keep the wicked alive but gives the afflicted their rights.
He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever.
My dear friend,
Evil is something that can be identified. I know you may be able to feel it and recognize it, but you must see that it can also be universally named. This year you’ve daily felt the pressure of racial tension on campus, of the fear of personal safety in the surrounding neighborhood after cases of assault, and all of this on top of your own host of personal heartbreaks and trials that keep you awake at night. In the midst of this, I watched you struggle to account for the world as you saw it unfold before your eyes. The intensity of evil in the air seemed inconceivable to you.
Evil are the things and actions that are not good, and good is the quality and character of God, and all things bearing his name. There can be no grey; something is either of God or it is not. When you forget this, or don’t fully appreciate it, you lose the power to name things as they are. When you encounter a threatening reality but have no vocabulary or understanding to reckon with it, the evil only grows in its fearfulness and power. It’s sort of like a fear of big looming spaces overhead. It’s the unknown which strikes terror into your heart; the rafters of the tall chapel ceiling could hold good, ill, or nothing at all. Of course, the ability to name evil only relieves you of the fear of the unknown. If you can in fact identify that a fire-breathing dragon had perched itself in the rafters above, you are still left with a fire-breathing dragon against which you are powerless.
The wonderful reality that God’s goodness gives definition to the deficiency that is evil, not only supplies us with a moral order that can distinguish one from the other, but also provides us with an Authority who has complete sovereignty over it. “I ascribe justice to my Maker.” But God is more than a moral dictionary; he is the Creator. The things made by the Creator are good and his order is just. He does not simply arbitrarily assign value. He calls his creation “good” because that is its intrinsic quality. Good is creation’s intrinsic quality because it comes from him – God can only make good things. Anything other is a manipulation, a lesser derivative of the good things God has made. But Good (read: God) is higher and therefore ultimately more powerful than evil.
Furthermore, not only does God have this intrinsic power over the dark, but he gave us freedom from it as Jesus broke the bonds of death in his resurrection. This is the hope I have in the face of darkness: evil is already in its place. It is not its own authority in the way that God is. There is no unconcluded struggle between two equal powers of Good and Evil. God in his divinity has always been more powerful than evil; Christ in his humanity invites us to enter into that victory once and for all. Obviously, there is still darkness in this world. The certainty of darkness’ defeat is not yet manifest in this world that has already been broken into a million pieces. But you can be certain that God is authoritative over evil, and he has promised that all will be set right. Do not lose heart! Do not turn your eyes away from the broken things around you in discouragement! Suffering will not last and all darkness will come to an end. “Be assured that my words are not false; the one who has perfect knowledge is with you.”
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
My Dear Friend,
Please understand that your pain is wounding for God. He takes no pleasure in your suffering and he did not create you for this kind of life. Something broke you deeply, and when it did, God was brokenhearted. He understands the way your own scars open and sting every time you see that same suffering in others. He knows that the many solutions you’ve sought out have not healed you completely.
But this is the good news: God is not only the Creator God, and God the Just, he is also the Christus Victor. God knows what is good and what is evil. God’s righteousness gives him supreme authority over all things good and ill. God answers the evil in us and in the world with Jesus’ cross. This is his perfect justice and mercy expressed. But this story does not end at the cross. There is more to be said about God’s response to evil, because after being buried, Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate hope. It is proof above all else that because of him, all evil and suffering have no ultimate power over us. If the God who took the responsibility of every human’s evil upon himself bore that immense punishment and still rose from the dead, my friend we are free indeed. Jesus’ death and resurrection together mean that in him, you have the promise that the person who loves you most in the world not only has the desire, but also has the total authority to overcome the evils you face. Healing is possible!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that all you need is a little prayer to Jesus and all your problems will be solved. Jesus has already defeated darkness, but this world is still broken. While we are still living in an imperfect world, wholeness can only be found in him. He does not promise that running to him will fix all the brokenness that exists outside of you, though that too will ultimately reach its end. When faced with the tension of God’s timing you must make room to become comfortable with mystery. Mystery is not the same thing as ignorance. There is not a lot of appreciation for the unknown in our world today, but truly, when looking at questions of cosmic significance, you must allow for things beyond your comprehension. I do not fully understand the specifics of how God’s plan for humanity plays out from day to day, but I understand that his inexplicable rhythms do not negate his character.
Of this I am certain: I serve a God who has perfect authority over evil and perfect love for you. He loves you better than any father you have ever known and he will soothe you as a good father will. He is the Comforter, the Redeemer, and the Healer. When you bring your shattered pieces to him – both the parts of you that others broke and the parts of you that you broke yourself – he will heal you.
The cross and resurrection of Jesus is God’s perfect response to all evil, injustice, and suffering. When you kneel before the cross and stand before the empty tomb, you will find yourself at the vantage point from which you will be able to look evil in the eyes without fear and know its place. Do not be afraid of the dark – the light has overcome it. Do not be discouraged by the evil in the world around you – it has already been defeated. Do not sit paralyzed by your suffering – the grips of evil on this life are loosed! “Take heart; Jesus has overcome the world.”
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
My dear friend,
You know the evil of evil. It has hit you hard and you’ve tried to hit it hard back. You’ve fought harder than you ever have before, and though you don’t seem to have given up, it has taken a visible toll on you. I truly have never seen you so angry and weighed down as I have seen you this year. How do you not cripple under the weight you’re bearing? Injustice is monstrous and time and time again I know that you must feel defeated. Will it ever stop? Is this going to be your life forever?
I hope that it is freeing to hear that resolving injustice is not your job. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that you don’t have a responsibility to speak out against evil and bring good where you can. I mean rather that you do not have the ability to set everything right. Even in the context of a huge movement with thousands of college students standing behind you, you will not be able to change the hearts of people locked into a system of brokenness with the tools I see you using. But this must sound so unsatisfying – and it should. You are passionate about justice down to your core. You must see wrongs righted and you will not stand for anything less. This is a good thing.
God is “just and the justifier.” Do you see the full implications of what this means?! God is just: he knows what is right and wrong and sees to it that justice is brought to what is evil. God is the justifier: he does this in such a way that while never sacrificing the completion of full justice, those who are at fault (read: all humanity) are declared “not guilty.” Is this the justice you are looking for? I think that’s the first really challenging question you have to ask yourself: Are you willing to fight for a justice where the oppressors and wrongdoers are as much freed from evil as the oppressed and victims of injustice? If you don’t, where will that leave you? And furthermore, how is this justice even possible?
Look to the cross, my dear friend. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” When it comes down to it, the cross is the only and the perfect tool to face injustice. Can you change the heart of the person sitting next to you? Can you undo generations of taught and embodied racism in their minds? Can you heal their broken family life that has colored the entire way they view and move through the world? This is the power of Jesus’ cross. It recognizes the seriousness of evil and the pressing need for justice. Just because life circumstances have taught someone to commit violence against others for the color of their skin, does that excuse them from the evil? God’s pure righteousness says absolutely not. I think, perhaps, in agreement with your own judgment. This is what the cross answers. Jesus slain is at once the propitiation for every evil committed and the redemption for every oppressor and oppressed. All in a moment, justice is served and freedom is given.
The cross can speak against and give answer to the actual present evils in the world around you. It is the radical act of justice that is unlike any response offered from our own efforts. Please my friend, take a closer look at this praxis and size it up against the one you have been fighting your battles with. I promise that if you commit yourself to doing justice with the cross, your weariness will be lifted and your discouragement will be no more.
Amanda Perkins, Bowdoin Class of 2018. History and Environmental Studies. Boston MA.