The Value of Evil

Lately I have been overwhelmed by the wickedness of man. When someone experiences unspeakable evil it attacks both the mind–that’s trauma, it’s real–and the heart. Hopelessness. Emptiness. Loss. We want it to go away; to cease and desist. Pat answers and platitudes do nothing less than throw oil on the fire.

Instead, it’s time to admit that nothing makes evil good–not knowledge of God’s character, not truth, salvation, or time. None of them magically transform wrong to right. Evil is evil. Wrong is wrong. The depravity of man will never be excused or justified. God will judge. He will avenge. He will repay.

Our legal systems cannot exact justice. They are God’s minister for good–but as a pale shadow: incomplete, crooked, powerless to discern and punish evil in kind.

Circumstances do not exact justice. The wicked are unfazed. In instances of domestic abuse, the abuser does not suffer a lack of friends, resources, opportunity, getting his own way. It’s unfair and unjust.

So asked myself, “Why evil, God?” It doesn’t go away. Nothing makes it better. Nothing changes it or colors it beautiful. Violence is violence. Deception is deception. Rape is rape. Over and over and over.

The beauty of who God is reminded me that, however dark and hopeless the evil, His light and grace are greater. He does not wipe away evil, He overcomes it. He does not excuse wickedness, He erases its power. He does not right wrongs, He uses them for His own purpose.

That is why we never downplay suffering. The depth, width, and breadth of pain and sorrow is not diminished by God, it is covered and filled. Re-purposed. Evil pushes us to a greater awareness of God’s mercy, power and love. Jesus became that sin–that ugly, hideous, twisted evil. God punished Jesus as if he was the one choking his wife on the floor. God punished Jesus as if he was the one molesting a child. God punished Jesus as if he was the one demanding his way, pushing, slamming, breaking, yelling, cursing, spitting. It was not a small thing. Jesus’ death in our place was the biggest thing. God exacted justice, His wrath was poured out in full, to the dregs, on His only precious, perfect Son, Jesus Christ. That’s how great He is. That’s how loving, just, gentle, kind, and good our God is.

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That also means Jesus was punished for my sin. Jesus was punished as the one who is weak, who fails, who is needy and broken. He was broken for me. He was bruised for me. He was oppressed and afflicted for me. That’s how amazing He is.

What is the value of evil? Evil reveals the goodness of God. Man’s depravity reveals a small taste of His immense grace. Does that make evil good? Never. Excuse wickedness? No. Ease the reality of suffering? Not necessarily. But in Christ, we have hope. Purpose. Endurance. Peace. Motivation to please Him and love others; to do what is necessary, good and right in spite of our circumstances. Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given the Spirit of promise; we are transformed, made new, and empowered to walk in newness of life. God. is. bigger.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4)

Accessing Strength and Power

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what prevents victims of abuse from crying out–and there are a lot of factors. I’ll be part of a Master Class with Chris Moles in the near future and will make it available as I’m able. But something incredible has fallen into my lap in the way of experience and truth.

Because I am not only a biblical counselor but an Advocate Volunteer for our social services, I interact with a lot of different people. When victims need help–when they know they need help–and they want help, God offers Himself as the  Rock, the  Fortress, the Hiding Place.

To come to the place of admitting there’s nothing I can do and this other person is acting contrary to my hopes and dreams–that I am caught in a web of deception–that is when I fall on my knees and beg for mercy. My dreams are gone. My hope, dashed. My future, uncertain. My present, a nightmare. My relationships, tenuous. As the old hymn writer said, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Unfortunately, many would rather live the lie, hope for change, and wrestle the known than let go and embrace God with both hands. (Statistics say that a woman will return to an abusive relationship an average of seven times.) When a victim lets go of present circumstances and takes God at His Word, a miracle takes place. Eyes are open, reality is accepted, dreams are released, and hope takes root.

If you haven’t, look around. Ask God to reveal your true need and cry out to Him. He is your only Hope. If you are clinging to Him, you’ve found the answer to your past, present and future. God will provide–has provided in Jesus Christ–and will continue to use and bless you for His glory and eternal purpose.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Jesus’ Broken Body

Church members, pastors, people helpers, be gentle. If you must, repeat to yourself, “This is not about me. This is not about me,” as many times as necessary.

A woman who has endured domestic violence (physical, sexual, financial, digital, you name it) is a real person. As a result of who she is and what she’s experienced, she has done some things you and I may never understand. She may suffer from depression, anxiety, self-harm, hospitalization, drug abuse or alcoholism. It is not our job to fix her. Life change is a result of God’s love, not a prerequisite.

We need only begin where Jesus does. When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, Jesus didn’t wag His finger, rebuke her, or demand fulfillment of the Law. He provided safety and acceptance, a place of refuge from her accusers. He resisted them, defending her life, humanity, and dignity.  His acknowledged the image of Himself, Creator-God, in this weak, humiliated, half-naked woman. When others walked away, He did not. He waited, silently, rescuing her from her circumstances before speaking to her heart.

A woman’s response, means of survival, relief, or escape does not restrict or negate the character of God. Her reaction to abuse does not lessen or cheapen His love, grace, forgiveness or mercy.

Alcohol abuse, drug use, smoking, abortion, self-injury, violent outbursts, depression, suicidal tendencies, unbecoming intimacy, and/or a sense of confusion and insanity are normal outcomes of and responses to trauma, crisis, and unpredictable violence. Let that sink in. She is not a “bad person.” She has survived. Day after day, moment by moment, she has pushed through an impossible existence.

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We, Jesus’ Body, must be prepared for ugly, painful, difficult, dirty–life. Take a moment and think literally. Jesus’ body. Beaten. Whipped. Torn. Bloody. Oozing. Covered with spittle and filth. Screaming silent anguish. He is our Head, now risen and resurrected, transfigured and glorified. But once, once He was broken and bruised. This woman may be part of His body. Jesus precious, broken body. Here, in this place, in His physical absence, we are called to suffer with others, to bear their pain, despair, and enslavement. This–being Jesus in the flesh–is what you and I so easily dismiss, quickly avoid, and flippantly ignore.

May Jesus find us, like Joseph and Nicodemus, faithful to minister love, grace, and healing to His broken, beaten body (see When Joseph Wrapped Jesus).

The Face of Evil

Two men were having a conversation and one was recounting an abusive relationship. “You mean he actually thinks about it?” one asked. “I know,” said the other. “And it gets worse.”

In writing the book, Sanctuary, I was aware of the fact that many pastors, leaders, and churched men struggle to address abuse in marriage because of their own frailty. They understand what it is to be impatient, unloving, to speak an unkind word and act unbecomingly to their own wives. Much like King David who failed to address his son’s sexual assault on Tamar after he himself committed adultery, all of us struggle to address others’ sin when it’s an area we struggle with ourselves.

The marriage dynamic of abuse, however, goes far beyond arguments and strained interactions. There is one type of abuser, the fool. According to the book of Proverbs, the fools is arrogant, refuses counsel and mocks any who reprove him. He is defiant, stubborn, boisterous. There is yet another type of man, or combination with foolishness, found in abusers: the wicked. The wicked man is crafty, sly, and evil. He not only sins against his wife, he schemes, plans, and fails to sleep until he gets it done.

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In researching domestic abuse, I discovered an incredible number of forums, books, blogs, and organizations that resist, warn against abusers and provide support for victim/survivors. Many have been founded and sourced by abuse survivors. There is a fire, a passion and drive to protect women and children from the horror of their experience.

From the outside, it’s easy to misread the passion as a livid desire for vengeance or extreme justice. In some cases, that may be true. But those of us who have never lived with evil incarnate cannot know the intense fear, panic, or underlying anxiety of the unknown and what’s coming next. We have not screamed and begged for mercy that never came, nursed deep bruises for days, walked on broken bones, tried to erase profane violations and acidic names from our memory. Those wounds never go away. Some refuse to heal. They are the work of the wicked.

Listen to these descriptors of the wicked from the book of Proverbs. The wicked:

  • Seek opportunities for violence (1:11)
  • Ambush the innocent for no reason (1:11)
  • Intend great damage (1:12)
  • Focus on personal gain (1:13)
  • Run to evil (1:16)
  • Are quick to shed blood (1:16)
  • Cannot sleep unless they do evil (4:16)
  • Are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble (4:16)
  • Live and thrive off wickedness and violence (4:17)
  • Walk with a perverse mouth (6:12)
  • Let you know trouble’s coming (6:13)
  • Signal with feet, point with his fingers (6:13)
  • Continually devise evil (6:14)
  • Spread strife (6:14)
  • Conceal violence with actions and words (10:6, 11)
  • Use perverted speech (10:32)

And that’s just the first ten chapters of Proverbs. A woman who is married to this man can expect nothing less than hell on earth–and that’s what you’ll hear if you ask. This is a terrifying way to live. It has nothing to do with anger, losing his temper or self-control. It has everything to do with dominance, sport, winning, power, and control. It includes verbal tirades, coercion, physical threats, financially twisting of her arm, and using  children. To clinch the deal, he will seal his threats and control with physical and sexual assault. If you think he doesn’t have sexual perversions, inclinations, and fantasies with which to prey on her, think again.

The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, in their training manual for law enforcement officers, says this,

“Men who batter are usually not violent towards anyone but their wives/partner or
their children. They can control themselves sufficiently enough to pick a safe
target. Men often beat women on parts of their bodies where bruises will not show.
Sixty percent of battered women are beaten while they are pregnant, often in the
stomach. Many assaults last for hours. Many are planned.”*

You can’t trust this man. You can’t “take him at his word.” His wife/girlfriend will be hesitant to give you information because of past repercussions and future threats. You will not get helpful or useful information counseling them together; she will simply be in greater danger.

Perhaps someday Jesus will hear, “We never knew.”  And perhaps He’ll answer, “Because you didn’t want to know. You didn’t see, you didn’t hear. You were too preoccupied with programs,  numbers, media, your facility and reputation. Instead of caring for the sick you fed the prosperous and provided spa treatments for the healthy.”  Jesus did say, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.” (Luke 5:31) Having experienced life under Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.”

The world is very aware of the evil that exists in the heart of man. Wake up, Church of Christ! Rather than shelter in place, we should be on the front lines, pulling the oppressed to safety, ready to defend, protect, provide for, and love those who need it most. In Christ, we can offer life, hope, help, peace, joy, and purpose. It’s what Jesus would do. It’s what Jesus did.

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

*https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/njpdresources/dom-violence/dv-dynamics-instr.pdf, p. 1-3