Friday: Psalm 89; Numbers 20.14-29; Hebrews 9.15-28

From: Harmony D.

This morning, listening to the radio as I made my coffee and poured my kids’ cereal, I heard a BBC news report on the rise of child marriages amongst Syrian refugees. According to the report, refugee girls—many as young as 12—are particularly vulnerable because their already desperate families often do not have the right to work in the countries to which they have fled.  These families, having run from horror, are pushed into making even more horrible choices in order to survive. One young girl, with her child in her arms, tried to answer the reporter’s questions about her marriage and her life, but after a few words, simply broke down and wept.

How, as Christians, should we respond to such things? 

One strand of theology, deeply influenced by Roman philosophy, would have us respond with a mix of fatalism and stoicism: bad things are inevitable, and we must endure them with patience and without complaint. W.H. Auden chillingly illustrates such an outlook in “The Shield of Achilles:”

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone, 
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone: 
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third, 
Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
Of any world where promises were kept, 
Or one could weep because another wept.

Yet for Christians, unlike the character in Auden’s poem, the evil we see and experience in the world is not an “axiom” to simply accept and with which to forbear. Indeed, as the psalmist demonstrates in today’s reading, it is precisely because we believe in the character and promises of God—“You have a mighty arm...righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne...steadfast love and faithfulness go before you”—that we cry out in lamentation and outrage over evil: “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? Have you created us for nothing?” We cry out to God to come and to act because we take God at God's word—because we believe, to return to Auden, in a world where promises are kept, where tears are not ignored.

Indeed, we have palpable proof of that coming world in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  He who, we read in Hebrews, kept not only God’s promises, but the covenantal vows we ourselves were incapable of keeping.  He who will “wipe away every tear from our eyes,” and in whose world, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.”

As I turn away from these readings and back to my kitchen and to that Syrian girl, I am persuaded that an embodied belief in God is one that involves protest and anger, as well as thankfulness and hope. It is one that looks with faith and joy to Jesus, but that cries impatiently for his return.  It is one that resigns itself not to the injustice of this world, but to the loving promises of God in Christ. 

Come again, Lord Jesus. Come quickly, and save us.     

I am a wife and a mom who believes in the value of caregiving, an attorney who works with asylum seekers, and a lover of good writing, beautiful music, and funny stories.