I have just listened to a good portion of the national news on this Tuesday evening and it is one story after another of scandal, political battle, civil conflict, refugee flight, and prison brutality. As I write tonight, the American government is on the verge of being completely immobilized by a small number of hold-outs against the President’s national medicare program. At the same time, the Canadian government is being accused of yet another senatorial scandal, and there are some 2 million people on a desperate flight for their lives from Syria where children are the worst victims of the raging internal strife. In other parts of the world — Kenya, Nigeria, and Vancouver — people are reeling from recent killing savagery of one kind or another. On every hand it seems the world is filled with hatred and oppression of the worst kind imaginable. The media appears to consistently focus in on these kinds of stories, easily eclipsing the many instances of human goodness that also surely exist everywhere.
Beyond these more distant tragedies of human existence are the many personal ones that we come up against in our everyday lives — broken relationships, accidental injuries and loss of life, life-threatening disease, and various kinds of spiritual and emotional oppression. Truly the writer of Ecclesiastes had it right when he speaks of the emptiness and seeming worthlessness of life. Most of what we see across the sea of human existence is not a pretty picture. The mess of the human condition seems to go on and on around the world and throughout history. And none of us can live in this world for very long without feeling the weight of the burden of the human condition. The tragedies of life are ubiquitous.
But if we look for them, this could also be said of the goodnesses of life. Though the media seems to focus on the negative aspect of human existence, it is certainly the case that there are so many instances of grace and goodness that exist everywhere around us. There are people who care, discoveries of science and research that are truly awesome and awe-inspiring, projects and missions that are making a difference for good in the lives of millions of people every day. None of us has to live long without seeing the signs of God’s grace in the world of nature, in the smiles of beautiful people, and the deeds of those who truly care. It would be wrong to conclude that the world we live in is devoid of any goodness.
Truly the darkness is great, but in the words of Paul to the Romans (5:20), “…where sin abounded, grace did much more about.” The context goes on to say, “…as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:21). One of the most amazing mysteries of life is the persistent penetration of light into the darkness of our world, of the mighty grace of God into the ugliness of sin. Through Jesus Christ, especially in His death and resurrection, it is evident that mercy does, and will, triumph over judgment (see James 2:13). Though evil appears to be having a hey-day in our world, God has a plan that results in the victory of love, mercy and grace.
The world needs more voices that will witness to the wonder, beauty, and truth of God’s victory story as found in Jesus Christ. Those voices need to be realistic about the existence of sin in all its horrible forms as it runs through the life of each person in the entire human family. We need to talk about sin like the Bible speaks of it — that there really is no one righteous, not even one (see Romans 3). But we shouldn’t dwell there. Voices of authentic witness for God will doggedly and consistently point listeners to the wonder of God’s love and mercy in Jesus Christ.
It’s easy to form a distorted view of reality by listening to the national news. I suppose it’s role is to remind us daily of the horrible depravity of human nature which shows through in all of us. But we need to balance that awful reality by having our hearts and minds exposed often to the beautiful things that God is doing through the ongoing work of Jesus Christ in redemption and restoration. First we need to ensure that such is happening in our own lives. And then we need to give ourselves daily to the task of seeing it accomplished in the lives of those who God allows our lives to touch every day.