"Is It Worth It?” –Nagging questions on the road of Epiphany…
Ever felt like the work you are doing is useless? Maybe you are laboring to follow Jesus but it has brought a season of pain and agony. These feelings have been surfacing in my life throughout this Advent/Christmas season because of recent events regarding joy and pain in our communal life at ANU.
This day, 6 January 2023, is celebrated in the Christian calendar as the revelation of Christ to the gentiles through the visit of the wise men (magi), known as Epiphany (Matthew 2:1-18). Let us gentiles rejoice! We have been adopted into the family of God and it came because of a little baby, Jesus, born to save his people (including gentiles) from their sins. We don’t have to live in the horrors of evil, shame, humiliation, and despair.
Christ is come! This has been our joyful celebration especially the last twelve days of Christmas (yes there are 12 days in the Christian calendar). Oh, but wait, the crouching evil is just outside the door of Christmastide.
The incredible mysterious event of the wise men coming to worship Jesus, was a precipitating factor for a genocide of young boys under two years of age in Bethlehem.
Are you asking the question I am? How could so much pain and evil come in the midst of so much joy? The age-old questions concerning evil continue to haunt us here, “why would God allow such evil right in his son’s birthplace?”
I would really like to have great answers to this question. Many books have been written on this subject of theodicy. Though study can bring light, this question cannot be fully answered on this side of eternity. I do believe God is saying some things to us in the light of these events surrounding the most special birth in human history. Let's examine together:
God must see sacrifice as a means to a good end. Sacrifice teaches us to lay down ourselves for a greater good to be accomplished. God intends for this baby Jesus to also play a huge role with sacrifice. Jesus will come to understand and embrace this sacrifice for the greatest love event anyone has ever seen – the cross. Early in the Christian church these baby boys, killed in Bethlehem, were considered the first martyrs for Jesus. No doubt they have a very special place in God’s kingdom today.
Whenever God is at work, the enemy is not happy and will use every means available to try to destroy the good. Prayer is always needed to fight these battles. If we do not recognize where the confusion comes from, the enemy can easily overwhelm our senses. Herod could have chosen to truly worship this king as the magi did, but instead, Herod’s pride for life and selfishness displayed itself through the murders of the innocent.
Evil is often carried out through blind obedience. The soldiers carrying out Herod’s evil did not turn away from fulfilling the plan. If we lack self-awareness and refuse to ask hard questions of ourselves (i.e. recognize our own pull to sin), we may also be found joining such ranks of unimaginable evil.
So, if we apply our question to this event we might ask, “Is it worth it that Christ Jesus came when so many baby boys were killed (let alone all the martyrs since that time until present)?” I believe we have to say a resounding “yes.” Without the cross event, who could be saved to experience full life in God? Who would know freedom from sin and evil (which is possible in part now and in full when we reach our continued life in God's restored future)?
If you are reading this devotional, then, I believe you have experienced life where evil exists alongside good. Until Christ comes again, we cannot completely divorce ourselves from evil, in fact, we are to overcome evil with good, as the Apostle Paul proclaims in Romans 12:21.
Matthew 24:13 also shows us how to win…“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (ESV)
“Is it worth it?” We each have to determine the voice we will listen to and the way through the difficult path. But please remember, Christ has already walked this path with evil, heartache, disappointment, and deception. He has won and we will also.