When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding, but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive. Proverbs 28, verse 28.
Merry 2 Days After Christmas! An old friend of mine was tired of hearing “merry Christmas” and “happy holidays” too early and to trite in the season, so she opted to say “merry new thanksgiving” instead. Me, I kind of think we are Easter people because of Christmas, and we are Christmas people looking forward to Easter. We are those things when we thrive, and according to this verse, we thrive when wickedness is at bay. It seems a bit easier to keep wickedness at bay when you have a merry Christmas (and a hope of Easter) in your heart, don’t you think?
That’s important to remember these days when it seems undeniable that, when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding. Recently, for just a flash of a moment, it did. When power ascends, people retreat. Physically speaking, there is nothing different about a president who has both houses of Congress in his same party, but his perceived power is immense and his opponents seem lessened. Get a divided government and neither side seems particularly powerful.
I read all of the “Left Behind” books. Personally, they left me behind feeling cold, and rather perturbed; I’ll leave why for a separate editorial (or book review). One thing that did stick with me (other than the perturbed feeling), though, was the overwhelming sense of foreboding evil. In their fictionalized end-times scenario, the authors wrote how wickedness entrenched and steadily rose to power. When that happened, good people had to go into hiding. The series, like the Scripture it mimed, had a ‘good triumphs’ ending but not before leaving you wondering how the protagonists would get out of every building volume.
Throw aside the cheesy fiction and it’s that way in real life. Think Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Think the underground believers in Iran, North Korea, China, and other dictatorships today. Think how one faction becomes silent when a stronger, more sinister faction ascends. Think about how bullies take over schoolyards, meetings, workspaces. When wickedness increases in power, good people go into hiding.
Now think back to the cheesy end-times books. Good didn’t disappear: it went underground. In today’s real-life totalitarian dictatorships (like North Korea, China, Iran and San Francisco), there are still communities of devout believers who work quietly from the inside, from deep cover, from hidden places. They quietly, patiently resist wickedness and advance good by living faith. In time, with the right conditions, they persevere and overcome. Think the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Think Tiananmen Square (before the Communist massacre). Think Mother Theresa. Even in the concentration camps of World War II, hope never fully died and, in time, liberation released it. Good never goes away, even when it’s on the ropes.
And eventually, good will triumph. That’s not just some Biblical prophecy (even though it was and will be true again). It happens every day. Even in the worst of times, good will overcome and defeat wickedness. That’s how God designed it. He is bigger than any problem, stress, or ruler. He is bigger than any petty wickedness or organized political evil. We were designed for good, not for the terrible wrongs that our sins perpetuate. When evil finally abates and wickedness is driven away, righteousness thrives. Good breaks out and takes the place of what was before.
On Christmas Day here in North Texas, a desperately troubled man dressed up as Santa Claus and murdered his family. He shot six people before killing himself. My mom and I were talking about this and I said that the only way I can reconcile it in my mind is to believe that evil took hold. I don’t discount that mental illness, financial disaster and marital problems were mixed into the equation, contributing and giving the man some twisted motive. But the man was supposedly a normal man otherwise. I think, down deep inside, that somehow evil came in and took over. The way I see it, something evil and terrible took control of the man and made him do an awful thing he wouldn’t otherwise have done on his own.
Where is the hope in this? Where do the righteous thrive? One hope is that, if the victims believed in Christ, they were now at home and at rest. Another is that lessons will be learned from it, that others may be led to avoid the situation in which the tragic family found itself. And yet another is that the evil itself that took control of the killer is gone, hopefully vanquished into oblivion. We can and should grieve for the loved ones left behind. We can and should try to learn from what happened. And we can and should remember that, even in the middle of such a horrible thing, God is not impartial. He didn’t cause such a thing, and it wasn’t what God wanted, to be sure. But He wasn’t impartial either, and He will use what happened to turn it to good. Inadvertently, through the actions of the killer, wickedness perished and good can be restored. Those left behind can become Easter people after a Christmas tragedy. Even now, the healing has already begun.