It’s an evil world. We only have to watch the news to know that. Unspeakable atrocities happen every day on a global scale.
But we don’t have to watch the news to know that. Most of us don’t make it through life without learning it on a personal level. Human atrocities happen every day, on the scale of one human being relating to another. People do terrible things to one another regularly, some that are illegal, some that aren’t. Some that are found out and stopped, some that aren’t.
If we’ve ever experienced a deep personal hurt, we may also have experienced grief, outrage and indignity that the person who hurt us may have completely escaped any form of justice. He or she may be living life quite fine, happily going along completely unrepentant, uncaring about the evil they perpetrated on us, and even seemingly prospering.
At moments like this, we may wonder, where is God? Does he see? Does he hear? Does he care? Where is his justice? Why are evil people allowed to escape, living unremorseful, unchanged, uncaring, and seemingly untouched by any form of consequence for what they’ve done? Perhaps while we or others are still suffering for it?
This isn’t a new question. In fact, it’s an age-old one, voiced over and over in the Psalms. The psalmists wrestled with God, wondering why wicked people flourished, and what he was going to do about it (e.g. Psalms 10 & 73). It’s still one of the biggest stumbling blocks to believing in Christianity: why does God allow evil? Even for Christians, it can be disheartening and discouraging and lead us to question the reality of God’s care.
Two thousand years ago, the apostle Peter addressed this very issue:
….scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:3-10)
God’s seeming silence and inaction do not mean he doesn’t see, doesn’t care, and will not bring judgement. Rather, his motivation for delaying judgement is, quite simply, mercy. He doesn’t punish evildoers right away because he’d rather they come to repentance. He is giving them space and time to turn to him.
God is outside of time. His perspective is not our perspective. To us, the lifetime of an evil person may seem an eternity. To God, it’s the blink of an eye. He sees the end from the beginning. If evildoers don’t repent, they are going to face his wrath. But his compassion means he'd rather they find mercy.
That’s good news. We have to remember, when we cry out for instant judgement, that if God hadn’t shown us mercy and given us time, we wouldn’t be saved. If he had lowered the boom the instant we sinned, none of us would be here today. God desires the same for even the most evil person.
The scoffers Peter talks about take it the wrong way. The conclude that God’s inaction means they will not face his judgement, and therefore they can go on sinning with impunity. They don’t understand that instead, he is allowing them time to be reconciled to him. God’s silence is not weakness or ignorance. It is compassionate patience.
So he waits. But he won’t wait forever. At some point, at a time when no one knows, the books will be closed. Accounts will be dealt with. Every person living and dead will face him and give an answer for everything they did. At that point, it will be too late. No one will escape. If they have not repented before that, they will no longer be able to do so. Evil will be destroyed forever.
We can take comfort in this. Our confidence in God’s coming judgement, which will spare no evil deed, and our knowledge of his desire for mercy, allows us to keep doing good without losing heart, forgive those who have harmed us, and pray for them that they would find the same redemption we have, as Jesus commanded. We know God will take up our cause and bring justice for the evil done against us, and we can rest in that and follow the example of Jesus, who “when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)
Really loved this and it helped me to read it tonight. Been seeing so much evil in the world lately, much of it in high places, too. My cry is: "How long, O Lord, holy and true?" I can't wait for Him to come back and establish His kingdom.