Bartenders across all spectrums of drinking establishment, those worth their therapeutic salt, provide stark advise to the pathetic and spiraling customers they encounter every single day. Folks who struggle mightily with the world’s seeming insanity. Bars aren't limited to unbelievers. Plenty of Jesus followers drown themselves in disbelief at the extent of awfulness in our fallen world.
Here’s the bartender's common pitch, usually followed by a refill. “Reality is a bugger, friend.”
Image by WikimediaImages
By John Pearring
Several times in scripture the frightening reality that God allows evil to exist and act freely shivers our timbers. Like pirates on the open seas chasing down innocent ships, plundering treasures, and shattering dreams, even killing its inhabitants, evil’s presence in the world has to be the most disconcerting part of our lives in this realm.
What rules control evil’s broad brush strokes? None. It’s only the person of God who holds evil at bay. They likely held back just shy of wiping all of us out. Rules? Evil breaks every rule.
We can surmise several tenets of our faith that aids in dealing with evil from the scriptures. Both Micah and Matthew highlight a couple of significant ones.
First, we know that God allows evil to operate with abandon. Second, God has telegraphed all his punches regarding how he deals with evil. That is, he's revealed what he's up to in the scriptures, literally and figuratively. We may not like what's going on, but the data and the intentions are pretty darn clear.
The first tenet takes our breath away. God allows evil to operate almost unheeded. I say "almost" because God eventually hits the brakes on evil's master plan. Still, we ask, what good transpires when God allows evil to rein, raining down awful stuff? People are dying, for goodness sake. How does that work out in God’s favor? And, subsequently, how does that work out in our favor?
Just to be certain that my readers understand. This first tenet of our faith is real. Let’s review Micah’s tale of woe. Micah’s warnings in his book do not hold back or edit God’s words from almost three thousand years ago. God literally “planned” the debacle of the Israeli people’s horrors, lifting his hand off of evil’s revved-up destruction and chaos.
God is still that same authority today, folks.
Therefore thus says the LORD
Behold, I am planning against this race an evil
from which you shall not withdraw your necks;
Nor shall you walk with head high,
for it will be a time of evil.
The second tenet might shock us more than the first. God has already told us what he's going to do. He will use his followers as martyrs. Many of us erroneously think our time in history is different. That's a rather ridiculous conclusion. We believe our modern 21st Century "1st World" lives are buffered, protected in a cone of safety. The past few years have burst that bubble. God has allowed both pandemics and economic hardships and now a crude, unnecessary war to cripple a significant portion of earth’s inhabitants. How can we be surprised by knowing what we have heard in the scriptures?
Let the wicked still act wickedly, and the filthy still be filthy. The righteous must still do right, and the holy still be holy. “Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”(Revelation 22:11-13)
Bartenders across all spectrum of drinking establishments, those worth their therapeutic salt, provide stark advice to the pathetic and spiraling customers they encounter daily. Folks who struggle mightily with the world’s seeming insanity. Bars aren't limited to unbelievers. Plenty of Jesus’ followers drown themselves in disbelief at the extent of awfulness in our fallen world.
Here’s the bartender's standard pitch, usually followed by a refill. “Reality is a bugger, friend.” I suppose some hearts are mended there. It's not the most lovely place for advice, but God is there.
God-fearing people know the reality of what's coming. We don't need a stiff drink to recognize it. Even we, though, are surprised at the lengths of dastardly deeds. Evil events and atrocities contrast so sharply with our image of God. He could stop all this, couldn’t he, we mutter to ourselves. What is happening where God, the master and creator of the universe, has released the Kraken as the Greek tale unfolds? What’s going on?
Reread Micah, Job, Ezekiel, Matthew, any letter from Paul, and Revelation. God moves as God moves. Reality is a bugger.
Here’s the thing forgotten in the fog of war, the confusion of disease, and the sheer madness of division among people. That is, there’s evil in our bones. Evil isn’t just the tsunami, the forest fire, or terrorist attacks. We’re plenty stocked on evil stuff right in our sphere of influence, albeit relatively tame compared to the big picture pandemics and burgeoning world war saber-rattling. Add all the tame stuff up, though, and we're talking something even worse than a tsunami.
We should look at our relationship with God before questioning God's response to the world. How does God work with us?
He allows us to make mistakes. He knows we’re SIN-positive. Rather than eradicate our options, God continues to let us flail about and even flame out. He blesses us when we don't deserve it. He showers us with gifts and abundance. It's not all barbed wire and poisons in our lives any more than in the world.
We know the truth of this for ourselves. It’s the same, though hyper-expanded, for the universe. If God doesn’t allow our small world of evil, our demons, and trials to play out properly, we will not reach out to him. We need God primarily because we make mistakes. Only when we develop a mature or healthy contact with God does “giving our life to God” make sense. Consider that same fatherly love for us expressed across the entire universe that God oversees.
"Use us as you will, Lord, in any way you need to use us." That’s what we need to do.
The only no-mistakes-allowed existence from God is when we have accepted him and agreed to be purged to live with him in Paradise. Here and now, we live a life where God’s mercy is necessary as we clamor in our attempts to follow him.
No, it’s not clear why God is doing it this way. I do know that in the beginning, all was good. Free will isn’t an experiment. It’s God calling us to be divine beings, like him in every way. Such is the world we yearn for. The picture of heaven fills our dreams, a place where evil does not and cannot exist. We wouldn’t be free to choose an existence that ties us at the hip to God if we don't know who God is. Our stumbling builds our kinship to God.
All the other great things about God come from this tough place where we live. It’s not that God trusts us to do the right thing. He knows the opposite is true. Instead, God wants us to trust him.
Look how the Father requests this from his Son. The Father gives us Jesus as a model. It's worth studying.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.