by Pastor Jimmy Buehler
It seems like 2020 is the year that everything fell apart. This past week the New York Times reported that over 40 million Americans have filed jobless claims. Deaths from COVID 19 hit a significant milestone this week in the U.S.: 100,000. Political fracturing about the handling of the pandemic is running deeper than ever. And horrifically, this week the eyes of the world were fixed on Minneapolis as George Floyd (an African American) lost his life while in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
Where is God when 40 million people have lost their jobs? Where is God when hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to a virus with no cure or treatment? Where is God when a man in custody is choked to death? When a police precinct is burned to the ground? When grocery stores and small businesses are destroyed and looted? In theology and philosophy, this is known as the problem of evil and suffering. Through the centuries both Christians and Atheists alike have asked the question, “if God is all good and loving, why is there evil in the world?” Often one of the greatest critiques of Christianity is a failure to answer this question. Many times sincere askers are given platitudes and cute phrases in response to their anger, frustration, pain, and suffering. However, the Bible is not silent to the problem of evil and suffering.
In Psalm 10:1, the writer asks: Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In verses 2-11 we see that the “wicked are getting away with their wickedness.” This has long been in the political conversation not only in our society but all throughout the history of man. There are those who take advantage of the poor in order to achieve gain. In the eyes of the Psalmist, this is a grievous evil that causes him to cry out to God for intervention. In v. 3 he says that the wicked boasts of his desires of his soul. That is to say, a mark of wickedness is an insatiable desire for self. The church father Augustine describes sin as “self turned inward on itself.” At the heart of sin is a driving need for self-preservation at all costs. Sin is the exact opposite of “loving God and loving neighbors,” two very outward-oriented things.
When you consider Psalm 10, it is merely asking what many of us do when we are faced with the overwhelming flood of evil, pain, and suffering. My wife and I have lied awake in bed watching in disbelief as riots happen across the country. It’s mind-boggling to consider the number of people who are in the process of losing everything, getting sick, being unjustly killed, and the like.
“Arise, O LORD;” the Psalmist writes in v. 12, “O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ‘You will not call to account’?” The Psalmist calls upon God to move and to exact justice upon evildoers. This is the cry of the hurting, the sinned against, and the broken.
In our post-Christian world and society (where many laugh at the idea of absolute truth and love the idea of relative morality) we rightfully mourn the unjust death of a man, the loss of businesses and jobs, and the burning of a city. Many people cry out in one voice to some ethic of right and wrong. This is why we can look at the riots happening across America right now in disbelief and shock; because deep down within all of us (Christian or not) we smell that something is off. But when you think of it, these horrible realities are simply logical outcomes of relative morals. If there is no God or ultimate truth, then right and wrong are merely in the eyes of the beholder. However, when chaos abounds and people cry out in disbelief, what we prove is that within us all there is this God-given sense of right and wrong.
In 1971, John Lennon released his (arguably) most popular hit: Imagine. The lyrics are probably familiar to you:
Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try
No hell below us, Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
Well here is the thing, the first 11 verses of Psalm 10 is exactly what happens when people imagine there is no heaven or God. They rise up and become gods to themselves. They become the ultimate standards of right and wrong. Murder and chaos are what happens when people live the lyrics of Imagine. What we see in Psalm 10:14-18 is what the Psalmist knows to be true: God is not silent, He is not idle when it comes to the poor and fatherless. God takes note, He is the helper, He calls wickedness to account. The LORD is king, and nations perish before him. In v. 18 it says that God will do justice so that man may no longer strike terror to anyone any longer.
Let’s remember that God deeply cares for justice. God is a holy God. He is a righteous God. He in no way looks upon the sins of the wicked and will allow them to go overlooked. God is indeed so committed to justice that He requires blood to satisfy His righteous wrath against sin. When we cry out for the blood of others in the name of justice, God provides the blood of His Son Jesus Christ for the world in mercy. In Christ we have the greatest view into the eyes of justice, because the greatest injustice occurred when the Son of God was crucified in the place of sinners. Where is God when evil and suffering abound? He is enthroned in heaven, drawing sinners by His Spirit to cast their eyes upon a crucified Savior who knows exactly what it means to die an unjust death and suffer at the hands of wickedness.
So with all due respect to John Lennon, you can keep your hopeless rhymes and melodies. As for me, I will cast my eyes upon the Lord Jesus, who will return to wipe every tear and right every wrong. As people of the Risen Lord, may we agents of gospel reconciliation in a world desperate to hear the words of grace, forgiveness, and truth.