When Evil Seems to Triumph

Few things can cause us more consternation than the seeming triumph of evil.

The prophet Habakkuk expressed to God a very human complaint against evil’s triumph: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:3-4).

When people abuse or oppress others, when an evil person gets rewarded or promoted, the cry goes up, “Where is God? Where is justice?”

It’s amazing how many people walk around with unresolved past injustices weighing them down. Just sit and listen to folks for a while. You will hear the cries of their hearts against betrayal, abandonment, abuse, and injustice.

What answer does the Bible give to all this?

The answer in Habakkuk and elsewhere is that God is going to come down to sort things out. In the language of the church, “Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead.” In the words of the Apostle Peter, ” . . . they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:5).

But what if we don’t believe in a final judgment? If we don’t, then where do we go with the injustices that are committed against us and others? How do we resolve them? We will probably let it eat us up inside or become cynical about good and evil in history.

Even if we believe in a final judgment, how often do we live as if we have to resolve everything? How often do we hold onto grudges and hurts as if sorting out good and evil depended completely on us?

But if we believe in a final judgment, we can let it go. This is what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:20, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Notice that he does not say that injustices do not need to be resolved. He just says that God is the one who will resolve them. He is much more capable than we are of working them out.

Psalm 37 gives us helpful advice: “Do not fret because of evildoers . . . do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Modern translation: don’t let all the things that drive you crazy on Fox News or MSNBC get to you so much!

This is not to say that we should not work for justice and righteousness in human and divine relationships. On the contrary, the final judgment should gives us encouragement in our struggle against evil because we know it will ultimately be judged and defeated.

However, our ability to bring about justice is rather limited. It many cases, it is beyond us. We have to trust that God is going to bring a satisfying resolution to all this, just as He did on the cross, beautifully preserving His holiness and goodness (see Rom. 3:25).

So, where are you today? Are you living as if there will be a final judgment? How would you live differently if you really believed that God was really going to come down and satisfactorily resolve all the moral dilemmas, tragedies, and ambiguities in a final judgment?


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