Romans 5:3-8

If you were with us in our first two blog posts we established that evil is a real presence in the world and it is active, it’s not passive and it is bartering for the souls of men and women in a battle for their eternal destiny. We also discussed how spiritual beings we refer to as angels and demons operate in this realm to affect the course of human events personally for the purpose of subverting our relationship with God, or if we don’t know Him keeping it that way. This last part of our series is the most difficult of all of us. It involves how this takes place when the sins of others in response to evil takes its toll on us, or why and what happens when someone else’s sin, direct or indirect land on you.

I’ll take a leap here and suppose you’ll be able to relate to the “why” as bad things happen because evil intends it. Evils success in causing pain and anguish is one of the most effective ways to foster spiritual isolation and disappointment in life, in God and in others in that it prohibits us from experiencing freedom from life’s cycle of dissolutions. The Bible clearly teaches the intent of evil is not random, it’s directed, (Ephesians 6: 16), it schemes, it plans (Ephesians 6: 11) and in its original success in convincing our first parents to reject God, it successfully imbedded in conjunction with the first couple expression of free will a condition called “sin” into the heart and soul of mankind that allied the human race with its intent; the rejection of God, the glorification of itself, and the magnification of its own image for which the only remedy is Christ on the cross. We don’t need to discuss how deep the tentacles of evils influence go into the soul and spirit of humans being. Regardless of its influence, the Bible makes it pretty clear. We can’t blame our individual rejection of Gods purpose and love for us on “demons,” or anyone else! That attempt fell flat on its face in Eden! Jesus, said plainly when he comes back he will render to every man and woman according to their deeds, (Matthew 16: 27). Contrary to popular notions of grace, what you do as a Christian or a non Christian does matter.

Evils greatest achievement is in its’ “collateral damage” it creates when an individual who is living or conducting themselves outside of Christ succumbs to it.

Therefore, in a relentless campaign to thwart the purpose of God this is accomplished by impressing on the hearts and minds of believers and non-believers alike purposes which counter and disrupt the human spirits freedom to communion with God (for the believer) or to experience restoration and reconciliation with God (for the non believer). There’s is no greater fruit or “by-product” produced by the “spiritual forces of this present darkness” as when a human being acting counter to Christ, or “anti-Christ” inures another person made in the image of God through thoughts actions or deeds that resulting in chaos or injury to the receiving party. It is truly remarkable how humans a accomplish this when set on course! We’ve heard the adage, “They got to the top on the backs of others.” I would like to add to this, “We often live at the expense of others.”

I’m sure after spending some 20 plus years as a counselor, and 36 years in the church any one of us can relate to the painful reality of being victimized by the decisions or choices of others (sometimes those closest to us) and suffering at the hands of another human being who refused to turn from a life or course of action that landed heavily on our shoulders, It derailed our life, unwound our circumstance and maybe even destroyed others we loved in its wake. Many of this have experienced this in life, often at the hands of family, and too often at that hands of the church or someone we should have been able to trust. Like I said, “collateral damage.” Being raised by imperfect human parents and spending considerable time over the course of my own life to break what was a painful legacy, I can raise my hand when it comes to being on the receiving end of others poor choices. The spiritual truth of the matter is this; evil succeeds in producing pain that affects all of us in concentric circles that expand from its source and intent and often at the hands of those closest to us.

The fruit of this is broken relationships. When we experience the results of our own poor choices its one thing. It may very well be painful, excruciatingly so, I have more than my share of moments in the course of my own life, but when we experiencing repercussions at the hands of others it has the added effect of betrayal to it. Betrayal is a unique human experience, Jesus, endured it at the hands of Judas, it unwinds our faith in others. We often project the impact of a significant betrayal onto everything and everyone around us with its effects lasting for years and like concentric circles the results are broken relationships, broken hearts, and broken lives. This dilemma of being human, suffering at the hands of others without question was one of the ultimate goals of Satan in the garden. The hard feelings and ruination caused by betrayal itself has led countless wars and broken lives. It hurts deeper than anything else. We must truly consider that the ultimate goal of evil regardless how it operates or how it works its way out is this brokenness and despair, separation from one another and separation from God.

If that were the end of the story it would be one bleak assessment of humankind! Free will expressed outside of Christ is overrated. Thank God that despite ourselves God demonstrates patience in allowing us to exercise our free will at the expense of one another! He stands ready and closer than we think to step in and turn what seems impossible to possible, “The Lord is near the broken hearted and saves those crushed inspirit (Psalm 34:18).

The reality of surviving others sins when they land on you for many is a watershed event in life; it’s a crucible of faith. For this type of experience produces a spiritual reaction. We resent and rightfully so, the pain inflicted on us by others, we conclude it’s not fair, (which it’s not) and make the cognitive emotional jump in our hearts to applying this “unfairness” to God for allowing such to happen. We conclude He in fact is not just, He is far removed and unconcerned. Our pain has a way of multiplying itself in this regard. We make the false conclusion Gods is unjust for allowing it to happen when in fact God is not responsible for the intent of evil or the shortcomings of men against each other. One of the most rudimentary and consistent arguments against God is derived from the experience of life’s injustices. God is unjust because He doesn’t act, He doesn’t prevent. It may feel that way for sure, but spiritual maturity and pressing through the difficulties in life are not solved by blaming God or the originator of our problems for that matter. Consider for moment when the process of blaming anything or anyone ever resolved anything? In my experience it only delayed healing and often had the added by product of reliving the painful experience over and over again.

Taking this deeper we can understand how cognitively we point the finger at life when we experience catastrophic results. Really though, if you think about it you’re pointing the finger at God. I’m not downplaying for a moment anyone’s pain nor the spiritual truth God will remedy all and holds us accountable. But if we truly buy into the idea evil is a real force waging war that is experienced in the realm of earth and heaven concurrently then we can begin to understand why the human condition is repeatedly subjected to dissolution, disappointment, and despair until the return of Christ. We also must own the decision of our first parents and all of its consequence which handed down to us the condition of inherent rebellion towards God the Bible calls “sin,” no doubt the diagnosis is terminal. All of us are in the same boat. Jesus echoing Psalm 53 reflects, “There is none that is good, (Matthew 10: 18) and the apostle Paul in Romans 3:12 as well.

The point here isn’t to remind us of our shortcomings, particularly when we’re talking about being victimized, in fact it’s quite the opposite. God understood what happened to the human heart and how this separates us from Him. He didn’t leave us in this condition but in fact gave us the remedy by destroying the power of evil and it’s consequential repercussions for us in an eternal sense and in the present sense. “For while we we’re still helpless at the right time Christ died for the ungoldy” For vary rarely will someone die for a righteous man but occasionally someone night dare to die for a good man, but God demonstrates His loves for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8). You see God knows His Son’s death on the cross solved the problem and now salvation and remedy is available to all, that’s right all of mankind. Blaming evil on the day we meet God won’t work, we’ll be accountable for the choice we made regarding his Son. In fact God expects when we are ready, through a process of spiritual growth and healing, to be ready to see our enemies in a new light. Jesus understands the prison life can be for those who are in the clutches of spiritual darkness. It’s why he said to the masses, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus knew the “why” and the “how” of the human condition and it was hopeless without His remedy. He also understood Godly or not, no matter what we have done, all of have the same condition and no one is beyond hope. The great apostle (Paul) sitting in prison as a criminal for the hope of the Gospel told Timothy to appreciate and handle those caught in spiritual darkness wisely in the hope of leading them out of the power of Satan so they could find restoration with God, (2nd Timothy 2: 24-36). The message and hope of Jesus makes this type of compassion possible, there’s simply no way it happens outside of His healing restoration.

I’m sure there are those of us reading, who have been terribly traumatized by others, either directly or indirectly. The call of Christ to forgive is not to give us the impossible task of forgiving our tormentors, it’s for giving us the possible task through the power of His love to move beyond the anguish that imprisons of so we can find freedom, live beyond our circumstance and push into the hope that awaits us. This is written as a commentary on how to live a better life, I know all too well about suffering at the hands of others, enough to write a book about it. But I do know firsthand we can be freed from the bitterness that arises from such treatment that eclipses our lives, and as you’ve already gleaned from your own experience, no it’s not easy, even in Christ. I stopped a long time ago telling people they needed to move beyond their pain and brokenness, some hurts won’t go away, but they can perceived through a new lens and actually turned into something helpful. I don’t know why this planet called earth was set up so, but I do know how it ends. The very darkness that surrounds us will be rolled back, evil will be vanquished and if we accepted the offer of love through Christ we’ll enter into His amazing presence. If enduring trouble down here in the meantime somehow communicates to others hope in Christ, and can actually affect their eternal destiny in the way I handle adversity even oppression and communicates God’s love to others, than I’m challenged to consider my reaction and responses in that context. Again no one says it’s easy.

“And not only this but we also exult in our tribulation, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character; and proven character hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5).

I find in this verse this spiritual truth: Despite the worst that evil can do and may befall me here on earth, God has made what was meant to destroy something in fact good, something that forges my character into the image of something useful to God, pleasing to His character, and inexplicably more fulfilling than anything I could possibly imagine or the world has to offer.

J.P. Grier is the contributing writer to Sentinels For Christ

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