But if people are bound in chains,
held fast by cords of affliction,
he tells them what they have done—
that they have sinned arrogantly.
Job 36:8-12 (NIV)
As I have read the words of Job’s friends, I find the theme has remained largely the same despite the nuances of their arguments. Elihu thinks he’s adding to the argument, but I find him regurgitating the same: If you’re suffering it’s because you’ve sinned against God. Repent and your suffering will be over and you will be blessed.
As I read through these words, I can’t help but think of the endless examples of innocent humans suffering inconceivable, undeserved cruelty. My mind recalled the three women in Ohio who were kidnapped and enslaved inside their kidnappers home. I think of the young ladies Taylor worked with in Uganda who were terrorized, raped and “wed” to members of the LRA terrorist group. I think of the girls whom Madison met in Asia who were sex slaves. I think of Jewish children terrorized, herded liked cattle, and marched to the gas chambers. I could go on, and on, and on.
I find it interesting as I look back across all of the debate between Job and his friends that the presence of evil has not once been raised. At the beginning of this poem we find that Job’s sufferings begin when the evil one, motivated to destroy Job’s faith in God, seeks to afflict the righteous man. Job, his friends, and his wife have spoken only of two parties in this drama: God and Job. They remain blind or ignorant to the presence of evil who was at the source and plays an active part in Job’s circumstances.
Growing up in the latter part of 20th century America, I was raised to believe in the goodness of humanity. I learned to walk as Armstrong walked on the moon. Nothing was impossible. The generation of peace was putting and end to Vietnam, the corruption of Watergate, and ushering in a new utopian era of love, peace, and ecology. If we embraced our inherent goodness, loved our fellow man, and cared for the Earth we could build a world where there is no violence, war, hatred, or prejudice. And, no one talked about evil. We didn’t discuss the necessity of confronting and overcoming forces (spiritual, physical, mental, educational, religious, social, corporate and/or political) who seek to destroy, dominate, steal, hoard, enslave, and kill whether for twisted, self-centered ideology, lust for personal power, or senselessly for no reason at all. It seems to me we continue to make the mistake of Job and his friends.
Today, Job has me once again mulling over senseless suffering and human tragedy. I am thinking about evil. I don’t want to be blind to it or ignore it. I don’t want to let evil off the hook or leave evil out of the conversation. I want to expose the darkness to Light. I want to confront that which diminishes and seeks to destroy both Light and Life. I desire to fight the good fight each day armed with love, forgiveness, joy, peace, patience, random acts of kindness, goodness, gentleness, fidelity, self-control, a pen, a paint brush, a blog post, a computer keyboard, and an internet connection.
Who’s with me?