Peace in a Painfully Evil Time
We are painfully aware of the evil in the world.
There is a definite shift in the public mood and it is more noticeable than ever today. People are becoming more and more aware that we are living in evil times.
In some parts of the world, this has been obvious for ages. But I am talking about the mood of the average people in America. The people in your family, down the street, at your school, at your job. People are beginning to realize that we live in very evil times.
This is a switch for American society. We were usually the nation that escaped the worst. I remember way back in the 1970s a preacher friend stating that we Americans lived in a land of “effort and optimism.” We believed that with pluck and grit we would always get it done.
It is true that our parents and grandparents lived through evil times in world wars and international revolutions. Many of them had to fight in those wars and some did not come home. But even with that, our homeland seemed safe and somehow innocent. The worst evil seemed to be external to us. It was not so much on our shores. Other countries might be engulfed in flames or forced into submission of thought and expression, but we remained the land of the free.
We were the city on the hill. Our institutions provided “a thousand points of light.” Our youth were hardy, independent and discerning. Our government, though sometimes scandalized, was still a government of, by and for the people, with our amazing constitution protecting us from any attempts to subjugate or enslave.
True evil seemed far away, in both time and space.
Painfully Aware of Evil
But times have changed and many Americans now feel, with a sense of growing, intense pain, that our society is in grave danger. Our families are threatened. Our cities and towns declining. Our moral standards are being subverted. Our industries are handcuffed and shackled. International threats loom large and potential global catastrophes beckon.
We are painfully aware of the evil in the world.
And it hurts — a lot.
A Great Hope
Turn now to the first century and the churches in a section of Asia Minor called Galatia. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to these churches chiding them for their vacillation in the gospel during hard times. But before he got to the scolding part, he had to offer a reminder of the great hope that could help carry them out of their weakness.
He used these words: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3-5)
Life was tough in Galatia. It was a “present evil age.” So it is in America today and — truth be told — always has been. Jesus informed his disciples that the world would hate them because it hated him first. That was true in the first century, in the 20th century, and in our 21st century, no matter where you lived.
The good news, spoken to those early Christians and also to us, is that Jesus gave himself to rescue us from this evil age. We have a redeemer. We have a rescuer. We have a Hero who can and will lift us out of it, both now and forever. We have One who can elevate our lives above the mess around us and will eventually restore all things to their perfect order. In that we have great hope and — above all — peace.
Deliver Us From Evil
It is interesting to note that the word the apostle used for “evil” in this passage is not the word we might assume. It is not the Greek word for moral or spiritual evil, often used in the New Testament. This is the word πονηρός (poneros) in Greek.
It means evil in the PAINFUL sense.
The New Testament Greek scholar A.H. Strong described the word like this:
ponērós [is] derived from pónos, ‘pain, laborious trouble’ — properly, pain-ridden, emphasizing the inevitable agonies (misery) that always go with evil.
In other words, Jesus gave himself not only to deliver us from our own sins and death, but also to deliver us from the pain of the evil age in which we live.
Let that sink in. Many of us need that right now. Many of us are weary and it is very painful watching what is going on around us.
The Peace of God
Let us also remember some words Jesus spoke while on earth:
I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Let’s also look at another epistle from the apostle Paul, one written while he himself sat in a Roman prison. It is the epistle to the much more upbeat church at Philippi, also enduring tribulation.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
It would be good for Christians to take up once again the greeting used by Israel throughout the millennia, even in the midst of that people’s incredible journey of persecution and suffering:
Peace — A deep, abiding peace be upon you.