As a Christian, I struggle to understand how God’s Will should be accomplished in a world filled with evil deeds and threats to the common good. We are taught regularly to love our neighbors and our enemies. How should one act when evil forces threaten the well-being and safety of our families and friends? Should one follow the concept to: “turn the other cheek” or should one fight back and seek to defeat evil forces in our lives? These thoughts apply equally to nations or regions where many people are held captive and suffering persecution by dictators and terrorists.
In the O.T. we receive God’s Will through the laws of the Ten Commandments. God’s Will is updated and refined in the N.T. with the Beatitudes presented so beautifully through the teachings of Jesus. The broad models for righteous living are there – the day-to-day details require prayer and discipline.
One may ask: “what did Jesus do while on earth when faced with evil forces? In John 3:17, we read: ”for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved”. This is a powerful commission! While in most relationships Jesus radiates love, compassion and forgiveness, he aggressively attacked the evil doers in the temple just prior to his arrest. He demonstrated his courage and physical opposition to evil without hesitation. Despite logical, earnest and human pleas to avoid crucifixion, Jesus said to his Father: “nevertheless, not my will but Thy Will be done”.
In numerous places in the Old Testament God’s people took actions to fight and defeat evil forces that appear to oppose God’s Will. We are not sure that all of the executions of enemy populations by the Israelites were aligned with God’s Will – but it is reasonable to assume that God’s people thought they were following God’s Will.
So fast forward the history tape to the twentieth century, we then clearly note that our country along with our allies, fought three or four major wars against known evil governments and believed their actions were in line with our Christian God’s Will. How shall we reconcile these aggressive acts of war with the teachings of Jesus? The answers may seem contradictory but they are not, if we can comprehend and believe that God’s Will may take on two valuable and complex meanings. First, we believe the Bible not only stresses love, compassion and redemption, it strongly supports good people (and nations), seeking to defeat evil of any kind or size. We believe God has a temporary (Conditional Will) that supports the opposition and elimination of evil forces. Second, most human actions (executing God’s Conditional Will) will hopefully lead to God’s “Ultimate Will” – love, peace and good will for all people everywhere.
The complexity arises with judgements, of when and how to oppose evil, that are considered by imperfect people. Leaders of Christian nations have probably made some mistakes while fighting evil – but many lives (and nations) have been saved by good leaders taking actions they thought were correct and in line with God’s Conditional Will.
On a personal level, the greatest battles to resist wrong living rests within the hearts and souls of each individual. As Christians, we read, study, serve and pray that over time, our lives may slowly grow and reflect a higher and more blessed alignment with God’s Ultimate Will.
May our prayers include pleads for wisdom, mercy and courage that may lead the world closer to God’s permanent and “Ultimate Will”. – “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Written by W.F. Peck