The Nature of Righteousness.
“Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’”
Romans 3:7 (NIV)
This is the third and final part of a three-part entry, told intermittently throughout the course of the past year. It refers to a renowned church leader named Frank who ended up committing evil against our community. I recommend reading part one and part two before diving in.
Frank did not contest the charges set out against him – the evidence had piled up so high and so fast, we could imagine him thinking: what was the point? It was strange, seeing the mug shot of our charismatic leader, the favorite of all the kids throughout the years, now plastered on the internet paired with graphic descriptions of his crimes. The experience felt like a personal 9/11 – one of those world-flipping scenarios, but on a much smaller scale. But still, it seemed as though a layer of paint had been stripped on the walls of my childhood, and some ugly varnish was all that was left behind. I knew Frank to be good, and it turned out he was a menacing evil. How do you live in such raucous uncertainty?
The news reports were blunt – a little too much so. It was enough to hear personal accounts from friends and family, recounting what they thought happened in general terms, and now here we had some journalist spelling everything out in clinical language. The evil became palpable in such a vicious way. Suddenly, it felt immediate – the locations were divulged, and the details provided the entire context. The victims, although nameless in identification, were obvious in description. It felt too heavy. Nothing like this was ever remotely imaginable.
There were a handful of victims – I personally knew two. Both remained devout in their faith. Both spoke out openly about the experience. They gave speeches. They spouted their belief in God as a binding factor, something that held them together during the “tough time.”
I didn’t get it.
God does not promise utmost protection for His followers. He warned that he would open Paul up to martyrdom with regards to his actions, and we all saw what happened to Jesus at the height of his ministry. The Bible is clear: Christians will face persecution at a continual pace. We may have eternal safety, but the temporal is not guaranteed.
As Paul says:
“…We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (5:3-4)
How do you look in the face of such insurmountable evil and determine that, “well, at least there was some good that came out of it”?
With a tremendous amount of faith.