What happens when we learn about the depths of evil in the world?

Dear Friend,

What happens when we learn about the depths of evil in the world? What happens when we learn from people of other religions? Do we believe in God less, or do we love more?

You can probably guess my answer. Perhaps it will seem less predictable if I put some flesh and blood on it by means of our old friend Peter.

As the Gospels enter their final chapters, Peter knows that Jesus comes from God and that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. So Peter knows a lot, and Peter has a lot to learn.

Peter learns that the world, as embodied in Pontius Pilate, will crucify the Lord of glory—in the name of peace, of course. Peter learns also that the world lives within him, as he denies even knowing Jesus—adding a curse for good measure. It turns out that not only Pilate and Judas and all the “bad guys” embody evil, so do Peter, fellow believers, and all the “good guys.” The weeping prophet, in Jeremiah 17:9, illumines our hearts with these inspired words:

The heart is deceitful above all things
and desperately corrupt;
who can understand it?

Jesus can understand the human heart, and he responds to Peter’s denial by praying for his faith and by offering him friendship. (Luke 22:31-34; John 21:15-19) And Jesus also continues to teach Peter.

One day the Lord tells Peter to visit a bunch of Roman pagans. These pagans are unclean. When it comes to God, they do not know their right hand from their left. They represent an occupying power in Peter’s homeland; yet they want to hear Peter tell them about the Lord, and Peter responds by saying, in effect: Now I know.

Peter says, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35) And I believe the Lord has a similar message for us all: When we see Jesus overcome the depths of evil with an even deeper goodness; and when we experience Jesus breaking the narrowness of our judgments with the width of his love, we don’t believe in God less, we know and love more.

In John 17:26, Jesus prays to his Father and teaches us by saying, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known—that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” When Jesus gives us more knowledge, he not only give us more love; he also gives us himself. That’s good news for everyone.

Joel Kok