I attempted a feat Sunday: to ride from Paris to Detroit and back in a single afternoon. Unfortunately, the trail ended abruptly west of Detroit, just east of Blossom (Texas, of course). So I turned my bike around and rode back in order make it on time to the evening service at East Paris Baptist Church. They have a very nice trail for riding, despite the kitschy moniker “Trail de Paris.” The only unpleasant encounter I’ve had on the path—with the exception of swallowing a couple of I-know-not-what-kind-of bugs (which I suspect to have been more unpleasant for them than for me)—was a dog surprising me with his suddenly vicious bark and a chase thankfully abbreviated by the boundary of his chain-link fence.
As believers, we know God addresses evil and suffering in the world through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and return of Jesus, and that His return entails judgment. And despite our more modern inclinations, we recognize that judgment, when it finally does come, is as good as it is necessary to redemption. The second of Revelation’s hallelujahs culminating in the phrases recursively dominating the famous chorus of Handel’s Messiah celebrates the judgment of the world’s corruptor with the observation that “The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” And before that, the angel of the waters praises God because His “judgments are true and righteous.”
Sometimes I think we want to proclaim that judgment to the world as a way of making sure they stay on their path to destruction. We can’t make the judgment happen—behind our chain-link fence, not authorized by God to be His enforcers, not even to be His lawgivers—but we still snarl at the world riding by and make sure they know the fear of what God has in store for them. But until Jesus returns to retribute and eliminate evil through that judgment, He reveals His justness in this fallen, painful, disorienting world as the redemption, healing, and comforting presence of our faith.
The belligerent dog did not keep me on the trail. If anything, it raised a fleeting query in my mind about why I was there. What kept me on the trail was my desire to exercise and the attractiveness of the pastoral scenery.
People already know they are condemned—that judgment must come. In the Psalm, there is nowhere to hide from that message. And Paul makes it clear that they suppress it precisely because they wish they did not know it. In other words, they already have the bad news. I pray we (I) will leave the hounding to creation, and instead attract people who pass by us this week toward redemption’s path.
To a week in the goodness of our news.