Sometimes there are just no words to express how you feel.
-When you hear about the Malaysian Airliner 17, all 298 non-combatants killed on a commercial airliner.
-When you are a first responder and you witness the hurt and brokenness of our world on a regular basis.
-When you hear the same kind of news comes home when there is a tragedy or violence.
Seriously, there are no words, nothing that can make it right or make it better. What we want is for it not to happen, for the bad things not to occur for someone or something to stop it. We ask, quite honestly, if God is good why does He allow bad things to happen, why doesn’t He step in and stop it. Because this isn’t how things are supposed to be.
But when we ask that kind of question, I’m not sure that we understand the direct implications that are involved with that. God created His creation and us humanity with an amount of free choice and will, to make decisions that are honoring to God and that are in line with what is right, true and holy. But also to make choices that are not in line with God’s will and are very much the opposite of all that is good and holy. The shape of our world in so many ways is the consequence of evil and bad choices made and built over generation after generation after generation, throughout human history living in a world that is made free to function and work and move and grow.
With that freedom in mind, would we really want God to rule the world directly and immediately, so that our every thought, word and action were immediately and directly weighted, judged and instantly punished? So that the price of God stepping in and stopping every act or atrocity would be that God would have to restrain and rebuke every single evil impulse, even those evil impulses that we are all too familiar with and enamored by in our own hearts. That would be the equivalent of everyone having one of those dog shock collars on that send an electric shock when they get too close to the fence. If we ask God to only work on those special occasions when we want Him to, do we really expect that he could do that when we want and then back away the rest of the time when we don’t want Him to be around?
So we are left with a longing that doesn’t really have an expression in words. Sometime there are no words to express how you feel. When we don’t know what to say, when words cannot do it justice God has promised that the Holy Spirit speaks from inside of us to the very throne of God with groanings that express all of our hurt and pain. That ask God, how long? How long must this go on. We long for the time when God will make things right, when justice will be served, when relationships will be restored.
Because we have this universal sense that when we say something is not right, not fair, not how it should be, that there is a right, there is fairness, there is a way that things should be and that militants shooting down a commercial airliner filled with innocent lives is not how it should be. Because if anyone does not pray and hope that the God who made all things will one day bring it to rights, they are condemning themselves to seeing the world as a sick, cosmic joke at best, and utterly meaningless at worse.
But what we want to know is that, that’s not so. That we are going in the right direction with Jesus, that God is still in control and that all of creation is moving to the place where God will make all things right, when God will make all things new.
This was the same kind of struggle that the disciples, were facing, the disciples who looked at their world of violence, tyrants, terrorists and rebels and said with us, that this is not right, not fair, this isn’t how things are supposed to be.
Jesus shared this parable about the wheat and weeds in Matthew 13. This story about a landowner who had an enemy that sowed bad seed in with the good crop of wheat in the field, that the two kinds of seed were identical until you saw the kind of plant and fruit they produced. How the workers of the field wanted to rip out the weeds but in doing that they would rip out the good wheat as well, because their roots would have become intertwined. They had to wait until the harvest when all would be sorted and made right.
Jesus used terms that were familiar to them as to us: wheat and weeds, good and evil, righteous and sinner. The impulse is the same as well, rip out all of the evil, make God stop all the bad stuff from happening, but we begin to see that it’s not as simple as that. By ripping out the one, by putting the shock collar on and thought policing our every impulse, by taking away all freedom and making us into simple, programmed automatons, it also takes away everything that makes us human. By ripping out the weeds you rip out the wheat, because there is longer any difference between the two, no wheat or weeds just simple programmed machines. That is not how we were meant to be, we were meant to be free, to be freely loved by God and to freely love, not under compulsion or control, because that could never be love.
But there is a sense of patience here, never discounting evil for what it is and calling it something else (like we are sometimes prone to say this will work out for good), but more of a sense that God doesn’t work like we do and that there is a much, much greater picture here, that sees all of human history, indeed all of creation’s history being moved by God towards the same goal. There is a time when judgment and justice will finally be served. Evil will finally and ultimately be defeated. Death will be overthrown on that last day and the righteous will be vindicated. That nothing, no amount of evil seed being sown, none of our enemies, can deter God from bringing all of His creation to that final place of judgment and restoration.
We have a foretaste of that promised day when everything will be sorted and all things made right in Jesus. On the cross, evil was confronted and defeated not through violence but through the love of God. His resurrection from the dead was a witness and vindication of all that He had said was true and from God. In his resurrection death was defeated and Jesus reigns upon the throne bringing all of creation to the final day when all of His enemies will be placed under his feet.
We live in the tension between those two times, the tension between the victory of the cross and final victory that is to come on the Last Day. While we live in this in between time of now and not quite yet, we groan with sighs to deep for words to express our in-expressible sorrow over a world that is not yet how it is supposed to be. But we do this as people with hope, who look to the cross and the empty tomb as the foretaste of the promise to come, when God will make all things new in Jesus. Amen.