It’s a New Year and I’d like to start it with a difficult theological idea: There is a thread of good and evil that runs through everything and everyone. The church doesn’t struggle with this idea too much until it becomes personal. If the fingers point at them, they get alarmed. After all, how can evil coincide with good? That seems horrifying.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1).
To me, this challenge of evil is what makes Jesus utterly unique and wonderful. He has never acted out a shred of evil. Not absorbed a single stray hair of it, let alone a stitch or a thread. He gives us hope of rescue.
The fact that Jesus as God’s Son has zero evil in him doesn’t mean the church has no evil in her. We become very dangerous people when we believe we have special powers that keep us from sin or elevate our rationality. The path of Jesus to the cross is the one which embraces no special powers, but rather forsakes them to the point of death.
If there were special powers used in Jesus’ life, it was for the confrontation of demons plaguing individual lives and the revealing his concern about physical sickness – essentially God’s heart for the care of other human beings. The most common sin Jesus used divine wisdom to expose was hypocrisy in the religious community. He did that because hypocrisy is a harsh oppressor of others, especially the poor.
Just because we now have the cross and resurrection, doesn’t mean we are pure. If anything, our cross should make us more humble. The cross gives us the freedom not to trust ourselves but rather to look to Jesus. “It is by grace you are saved…and not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Constant grace implies consistent need. Christian grace is my innate need for something divine to cover my constant propensity to create a snarl out of the good I pursue. It is a Grace that redemptively edits my small efforts into the vast and wonderful mega-narrative God is enacting.
If you want a good prophetic word to live by in 2021, humble yourself into grace. This is the path to Jesus’ cross, and it is the safest place to be. To cast ourselves on the mercies of God, even if polarizing religious and political powers ostracize us (or worse).
I do believe we can live powerful and amazing lives in the grace of God, but never believe yourself to be beyond those insipid threads of evil. Lean hard into God’s mercy and grace.
(1) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (1976). The Gulag Archipelago. (Part I, 168). New York: Harper and Row.