“[Jesus] is the One, after all, who took all the evil we see upon Himself, as if He had committed it, and shouldered the just punishment warranted for all of it.”
Revisiting Foundations in Times of Turmoil
Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” 1 The nature of today’s geopolitics is bringing that principle to the forefront in uncomfortable ways. The interconnectedness of the nations—and of humanity—has always been a reality because of the One who ordained it to be so, the One who created it all. Yet, because of the autonomy we have been granted in either accepting or rejecting God’s principles for our collective flourishing, we are now seeing a display of the consequences of unaddressed evil. There is almost no societal or international dilemma that has not come out of the woodwork. In the middle of a global pandemic, it feels like our foundations are being shaken on an entirely new level. Which values are most important? Which issues of life matter most? What should we be fighting for? Should Christians even protest at all? Why so much suffering and evil? The current global climate begs for a theological response to bring hope to people who are still wondering what God is really like. What emerges clearly is the need for us to concentrate on what is most important. Yet even those words, “what is most important,” can mean such different things to different people.
As evil and terror multiply before our eyes, for those with God’s Spirit, the urgency of proclaiming God’s character and love, as revealed in Jesus, becomes evident. He is the One, after all, who took all the evil we see upon Himself, as if He had committed it, and shouldered the just punishment warranted for all of it. Even more than that, by simply accepting that reality by faith, we become co-heirs with Him in receiving all that He has inherited through His obedient life and death (John 1:12; Romans 8:17). And for me, who He is and what He desires feel like part of an inextricable combination.
It was proclaimed first in Isaiah 61:1, and then in Luke 4:18, that Jesus came to set captives free. From sin, death, and literal chains that may bind and hinder freedom—spiritual and physical. His words were meant to impact anyone who would hear them, for all time. I find myself paying attention to whether someone’s scriptural exhortation in times of trouble would have made sense or brought any encouragement to my ancestors when they were in chains. Would the full counsel of God’s Word leave them hoping for a better life to begin only after death while they served the One who wasn’t going to intervene in what was happening to them in their “today?” Which Scriptures would have brought them hope in their darkest moments? And which actions, from those who professed allegiance to Jesus at that time, would have best represented Him? What did they hear and feel when they heard Isaiah say,
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)
or when they heard Jesus Himself say,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free …” (Luke 4:18)?
I think these words would have sparked both tremendous hope and prompted acts of faith that would bring them closer to earthly freedom. In hearing them, they could take joy in both His message and His presence, but also hope that some sort of earthly intervention would or could take place on their behalf to bring liberation.2 This is the kind of hope we crave more than ever today—a declaration of God’s promises accompanied by demonstrations of His power and practical acts of service and care at whatever level of influence or access we are granted. These help to multiply our love for our neighbour, and theirs for us, making them even more alert to the reality of Jesus’ love and sovereignty.
Which issues of life matter most? We know that when we’re not sure, God has given us a blueprint on what His biggest requirements of us are: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). If we continue committing to concentrating on these two things in whatever small ways we can, God can multiply the fruit that comes from that effort. It is in loving God with all our hearts that He can help us break free from patterns of thinking that can ultimately harm ourselves and our neighbour.
What should we be fighting for? Should Christians even protest at all? I am grateful to live in a democratic society where peaceful protest is allowed and sometimes even warranted. But Scripture teaches us that the ultimate fight is in the spirit realm, and so are our weapons (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). I was captivated with a testimony I read in Free at Last, where protesters in Birmingham, AL, who had already spent much time in prayer, saw God move supernaturally on their behalf as they sought state-sanctioned equality and intervention from the authorities for ongoing bombings and other domestic terror attacks. Tense moments arose that had prompted additional prayers on their knees, right on the street. Dressed in their “Easter Sunday go to meet’n [clothes],”3 they saw God intervene by suppressing powerful water hoses aimed at them and by quieting police dogs that were ready to be set on them if they proceeded with their forbidden street march. The moment was so extraordinary that one person exclaimed, “Great God Almighty done parted the Red Sea one more time!”4That day did mark a turning point for the end of segregation in Alabama.5 It was a powerful testimony of God’s involvement in peaceful demonstration, and of the effectiveness of combining devotion with practical actions toward a desired outcome.
But why is so much suffering and evil simply not overcome in a visible way? That is an age-old dilemma, likely one of the most debated topics of every generation. Most of the world is united in its pain over Ukraine. Some are also distressed because other wars have not received similar attention and compassion. We can be reassured that all of it matters to God. When we don’t understand, God still calls us to embrace all that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean. This is our only true source of courage and comfort. This is our only guaranteed way of ultimate victory over Satan and evil once all debts are visibly settled, delayed timeline or not.
God is always speaking to the entire world in various ways (Romans 1:18-20). As I write these words and as you read them, may we be counted among those who are listening (Hebrews 12:25-29).
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963, accessed March 7, 2022, https://letterfromjail.com.
- This is very likely why slaves who had received Christ were often not allowed access to passages in the Bible that mentioned oppression and liberation. One such example is The Negro Bible - The Slave Bible: Select Parts of the Holy Bible, Selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands.
- Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free At Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 76.
- Ibid., 77.
This article appeared in the April/May/June 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos © istockphoto.com.