HOPE IN THE CROSS
Over the last few weeks, our news has been dominated by shootings and storms: El Paso, Dayton, Odessa, Hurricane Dorian. We know we live in a world where we can be killed going to Wal-Mart, to school, or church. We know we live in a world where you can be targeted because you’re black or brown, because you’re a woman, because you believe in God, or just because you happened to be there. We know we live in a world where a hurricane can hover over your home for hours, destroying everything you have and perhaps even taking your life.
Our two oldest daughters are just getting old enough where we can talk about these things with them. Several weeks ago when the El Paso and Dayton shootings happened so close to one another, we had a conversation about how these things can happen and how we needed to pray for the families of the victims and briefly touched on what Mommy and Daddy would do to protect them if something like this happened. Besides the general feeling of absurdity that I was actually having to have this conversation with my eight-year-old, what stood out to me was how similar her reaction was to mine — a mixture of “how could someone do this,” and fear of living in a world where someone could do this.
As followers of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t take too long to go from there to begin asking where is God in the midst of the shootings and storms. This is a fair question. As believers in God, how do we begin to make sense of senseless evil? How and why do we trust God as our refuge in a time of trouble when we are reminded again and again that there doesn’t seem to be any safe places?
The only answer we have for evil like this, the only refuge we can find, the only way we can continue to live consistently for others, love others, and work toward justice in a world like this, is Jesus Christ, his cross, and his resurrection. Evil is ultimately irrational. There is nothing more irrational than evil because it is an attack on all that is rational. It’s the opposite of God, who is everything that is good, true, and beautiful in this universe. Our hope in the face of evil is never going to be our ability to explain it or even to completely eradicate it; our hope is in the truth that evil has already been defeated, is being defeated, and will be defeated.
And that defeat was accomplished, paradoxically enough, precisely at the moment when evil seemed to have decisively won — on the cross on which Jesus Christ died. As Christians, we begin to make sense of evil by first acknowledging that evil is senseless, and the absurdity of evil has been defeated by the absurdity of the cross.
As the French theologian Henri Blocher puts it, “Evil is conquered as evil because God turns it back upon itself. He makes the supreme crime, the murder of the only righteous person, the very operation that abolishes sin. The maneuver is utterly unprecedented. No more complete victory could be imagined. God responds in the indirect way that is perfectly suited to the ambiguity of evil. He entraps the deceiver in his own wiles. Evil […] takes advantage of the power of good, which it perverts; the Lord, like a supreme champion, replies by using the very grip of the opponent” (Evil and the Cross).
Which is why in the face of evil, in a world of senseless tragedy, our only hope, our only security, our only reason to take courage, and our only encouragement to live with righteousness and strive to help others do the same, is found in Jesus Christ.