You Meant it For Evil…

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At the end of Genesis is the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph goes on a long and arduous journey, sent out from home, betrayed by his brothers, taken as a slave in Egypt where he rises from the lowly shepherd-servant to the great vizier in Pharaoh’s court, second only to Pharaoh in power. Joseph grows from wounded to wisdom. If you read the story carefully you will see that Joseph’s journey mirrors our own. Each event in his life is a place that we too pass through on our own journey’s to wholeness and maturity. This is a very human paradigm, which coincides with the passages that we make in this adventure called life. In Joseph we see the sacred design we are enacted in the drama of this one person’s life as the story of creation closes.

Because Joseph is in Egypt and in charge of the management when a famine comes, he will be able to send for his family and save the ones who betrayed him from starving to death. Save the family of Jacob-Israel to become a nation with a far reaching destiny. Like our lives too, Joseph’s life is informed by dreams, dreams Joseph knows how to interpret. For he is not only shepherd, but also the wise dreamer. Near the end of the story when Joseph’s brothers finally recognize who he is, they are fearful that he will retaliate for the evil they did to him. But, now knowing that it is the hand of Yahweh that has led them all to where they are, he tells them: You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

There is another well-know story of a journey, that ends with much the same words Joseph spoke to his brothers. It is the journey that Jesus makes and the words the risen Christ echoes to those he met along the road, by the lakeside in the Upper Room. For God sustained and journeyed with Joseph throughout his life. It is this same God, the God of Israel, who sustained and brought Jesus beyond (even) death. At the close of Genesis, out of the garden, from tree of life, to the tree of death, to another garden, at the close of Jesus’ earthly life, we are reminded once more, that the gift was not lost when we left the garden, but continues in unhampered freedom as the good will of God to all of his creation, to all of us.

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The World is Too Much With Us

looking_to_the_future1.jpg On the horizon of being the human heart is endowed with hope.

      Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:39)

The cross of Christ is not the (only) reality that we live under. We live under the sign of the resurrection as well. It wasn’t even until the Middle Ages that the cross began to appear with the crucified savior upon it. Rather, it was the depictions of Christ in his glory, as having triumphed over death, that were imaged in religious artwork until then. But more and more lately, well beyond Lent, when Jesus’s cross becomes the place to center our faith and praxis, these hot August days seem to swelter under the heavy burden of the cross.

It’s not just in Jerusalem or Ferguson, but all over the world, man’s inhumanity to others seems to be on the rampage. I finally had to turn the television off. But the subject would not leave me, because the next topic of transformation that I was going to address was the transformation of evil to good. During these days I have kept my bible close at hand. And I was grateful again that I had continued with this blog,  because I began to search again through the scriptures and Paul, for a way to come to grips with the epidemic of evil sweeping our globe. The obvious response (because there is no ‘answer’ to evil): the Way through – the absolute, unswerving faith in God, the great Transformer.

I wrote all things are eventually redeemed in the heart of God. I absolutely believe this. I have experienced this in my life. We see even now the first inklings of that drive in the human spirit to make sure those who have died have not died in vain. That good comes from this. This too is the meaning of Christ’s cross. This is the god-place within us, the indomitable human spirit that needs to keep creating and recreating ourselves and the world in image and likeness as the ongoing reality of living.

But, the events of the past few weeks have made me pause and pray and search what I believe and hear it as others might hear it, as the most recent victims of injustice and evil might hear these words. To make sure this is not pious prattle. That it might come from the depths of holding to the cross while living in the resurrection. Holding to the paradox of good and evil in God’s good creation. I hear Joseph saying to the brothers who wrecked their evil upon him and tried to kill him: You meant it for evil but God meant it for good. (Genesis 50:18). Joseph made his own long, very human journey of transformation. (I write about Joseph’s journey in my just completed mss I Am Joseph: Symbols of Transformation in the Joseph Narrative.)

When St. Paul talks about evil, he isn’t engaging a theological debate (theodicy), evil as the dark specter that swarmed about Job, rather evil for Paul is a matter of human behavior. He begins many of his letters asking the people to curb their evil deeds (Co 1:21-23). Fornication, impurity, evil desire (covetousness), slander, foul talk, anger, wrath, malice, slander and idolatry. These are all sins of one person against another or against God. For Paul evil comes from people’s behavior. In 2 Thessalonians 3:2 Paul prays that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people. Following the passage from Romans 8 quoted above Paul reminds us of the word from the Hebrew Scriptures: For thy sake we are being killed all day long. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. It is then he says Nothing – not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord. Paul later in Romans will ask that we overcome evil with good. By good he means love each other, respect one another, work with untiring effort for what is right and just, keep praying even in the face of trials and make hospitality your special care. (12:9-21) Forgive one another because you have been forgiven (Co 3:12-15). Let the message of Christ find a home in you. That great, real Love saves. This is the resurrection.

Joseph eventually save the lives of the brothers who wished him dead and forgives them saying You meant it for evil but God meant it for good. Suffering and the resultant on-going search for meaning and judgment are to lie ever hidden in the mysterious design of God that Joseph can only answer by his continued care of his family, suffering and evil’s only recourse to choose how one is to live within it and beyond. And to know the beyond as God.