A friend and I have been discussing the promise of God’s power alongside threats to human flourishing and the struggle for justice. The discussion started right before COVID-19 hit California and a few weeks before the murder of George Floyd. As we continued talking and more events unfolded, our emails came into sharper focus. My plan is to post a series of our exchanges here. I’ll start Part One with one of my first emails.
March 9th, 2020
Like you wrote in your old discussion, I can also see how God is ordering all things “for the working out of his own good purposes,” especially when we see oppressors. God does some sort of jujitsu move with their intentions, taking the side of the weak and vulnerable person, bringing judgement and mercy into the situation. He upholds the lowly in their faith. Yet He leaves the strong to their own devices (and painful consequences), for perhaps they too can change their life. The biblical witness seems to confirm all that and it’s been my personal experience as well.
All this is encouraging to remember. I feel most empowered to depend on God in these ways when I recall how He has protected me, rescued me, healed me, and transformed my many addictions into new life and freedom. Of course, in the context of the whole world, I’ve had a relatively easy life. Many other people and situations come to mind. The hardest ones might be, for example, natural disasters (like the Tornado in Nashville), child suffering (like kids fleeing war in Syria), and more or less preventable situations (like extreme poverty, hunger or starvation). In these situations, many different people are responsible and it even seems creation itself has become complicit.
In our current book, A More Christlike God, it says that “those who love as Christ did” are filled with supernatural love and will bring light to the world. The author writes:
God consents to our reluctant consent, resulting in this painfully slow but inexorable transfiguration of our violent world.
Love will have its way, because while it may look like passive consent to extreme violence, it is nevertheless “stronger than death, more jealous than the grave, more vehement than a flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor floods drown it” (Song of Sol. 8:6-7). The death and resurrection of Christ are the firstfruits of the destiny God’s love has arranged for the whole universe.”
Those lines sound pretty good to me, even poetic and beautiful. But how does this happen? Can God ultimately save us if He has limited himself to what the author calls “nonviolent consent”? What does God’s power look like in the face of really terrible things that we see happen?