Some of us remember when the world’s suffering was relegated to one hour on the nightly news.
We watched a sober-faced newscaster recount famines and wars and disasters in far-off places with sorrow in our hearts, and then we returned to a sink full of dishes or our algebra homework and the horror faded as the immediate pressed in.
After all, we believed that all the world needed was a Coke and company. How naive we were!
Now, though, we have the internet. We see the terror in real time, and sometimes we even have friends in these far-off places, our relationships facilitated by our cyber-connectedness.
Their suffering pierces our hearts.
It is shocking to witness evil’s horrors, especially for those who had believed that we are all inherently good.
The witness of outright evil shames the petty squabbles of those of us who live – for now – in safety.
Beginning with the Enlightenment, we were taught that education would solve the world’s problems and science would lead us to a pain-free utopia.
Now we witness the brutality in Afghanistan and realize that before Afghanistan there was Syria and the Rohingya and the Yazidis and the Uighurs and Rwanda and Uganda and South Africa and Northern Ireland and….on, and on, and on. No country or culture has been innocent.
We are forced to acknowledge that a bottle of Coke didn’t heal us. Neither has science or education or the latest economic theory. And America can’t save the world.
Evil is real and it is staring us in the face. But it has an end, and that end is closer now than it’s ever been.
There is a God who will call to account; who will wipe away tears; who will step in one day when it seems that evil has finally won. Who has already stepped in to give notice that hope is not lost.
The real war to be won is not on battlefields or oceans. It is inside of us. The war that starts all other wars rages in the human heart.
The world may declare an armistice here or sign a treaty there, but evil’s poison remains to spring up in other places. The cruelty of human trafficking and the pornography industry crosses all national boundaries. The pain of domestic abuse transects all cultures.
This is the only power that can conquer evil at its very root: you and me, in the power of the Spirit, choosing humility and love this day. This hour. This post. This prayer.
At church on Sunday we prayed for the people of Afghanistan, for the vulnerable and needy. For the women and children. And we also prayed for the Taliban, each one created in the image of God, each one in need of rescue from the darkness they have pledged themselves to.
Whether we are called to bear arms against a physical enemy or open our arms to the neighbor who hurt us, we who follow Jesus are to be directed by a love that is stronger than evil, than hate, than fear. Than even death.
We may feel hopelessly removed from the suffering confronting us in Afghanistan, but we have ample opportunity to love right here, if we are willing. Jesus spoke of a visit, a meal, and a cup of water. Let’s not forsake the things we can do out of frustration over the things we can’t.
Each candle of kindness that we light, however small, helps to push back the darkness. Each whispered prayer makes its way to heaven. Every encouraging word, kept on account until the day when this broken world is made new and our healing comes at last.