O God, let me sing a new song to you,
let me play it on a twelve-string guitar—
A song to the God who saved the king,
the God who rescued David, his servant.
Rescue me from the enemy sword,
release me from the grip of those barbarians
Who lie through their teeth,
who shake your hand
then knife you in the back.
Make our sons in their prime
like sturdy oak trees,
Our daughters as shapely and bright
as fields of wildflowers.
Fill our barns with great harvest,
fill our fields with huge flocks;
Protect us from invasion and exile—
eliminate the crime in our streets.
How blessed the people who have all this!
How blessed the people who have God for God! (The Message)
Evil lurks everywhere. It resides in the human heart, hidden in the dark shadows, coming out sideways through shameful lies and guilty actions. Evil is also found throughout the world in every institution, organization, and group, ensconced as systemic injustice – hoarding resources for the powerful at the expense of the powerless.
Since there is wickedness found in all places and with all people, evil needs to be dealt with and expunged from both heinous hearts as well as the hoarding habitations of injustice. Part of the solution is to do away with all obstacles which stand in the way of human flourishing.
To be sure, the heart of humanity must be dealt with and be the focus of change. Yet, if we only focus one-dimensionally on evil, it will persist, and even grow into monstrous proportions, unless we equally direct our right and just efforts on institutional and systemic evil.
People and their institutions need deliverance from the power of evil in the world. And for that to happen, the hindrances and handicaps to human thriving must be eliminated.
Our entire concept of salvation needs a fuller scope. Not only do individuals need personal deliverance from sin, death, and hell, so do entire societies. Complete systemic rescue from oppressive obstacles is a must. Far too many people in this fallen world are weighed down from institutional sin.
To place this in a different context, the genius of the American experiment was that the founding fathers (and mothers!) of the United States created a political and societal system which sought to eliminate class distinctions and allowed people of lower means to achieve land ownership and business acumen simply through hard work and thrift.
Unfortunately, the experiment only extended largely to white men. Native American and African American people still had huge systemic obstacles to overcome. And the new republic had different expectations for it’s women. It took a Civil War and decades of grueling work to address political and social change (not to mention religious). We are still laboring to truly give liberty and justice to all and achieve the ideal of an egalitarian nation.
We, as both individuals and citizens, need divine intervention through deliverance. Like Gilligan and the crew of the Minnow stranded on a deserted island, we seek to be rescued – knowing we need help beyond ourselves for salvation.
The psalmist looked ahead in hope, convinced that a good God will deliver and provide good people with everything they need to thrive and flourish in this life, and in the life to come.
If God doesn’t fight our overwhelming battles for us, we are lost. This present darkness, this ancient and contemporary evil, is an extremely powerful foe. However, the Lord is greater and will have the last word.
Christianity asserts that Jesus is the pioneer of our salvation and the once for all answer to the problem of evil for both the world and the human heart. Christ, in other words, is the fulfillment of the psalmist’s prayers for deliverance, health, and hope.
In his earthly ministry, Jesus did not give explanations for our pain and sorrow. Instead, Jesus comes where our pain is most acute and takes it upon himself – bringing healing and hope. The Lord tackles evil, not by having a Zoom conference on the subject of wickedness, but by allowing evil to do its worst to him. Christ exhausts evil by draining it of its power, emerging resurrected with new life for all.
The good news is this: Jesus is Lord and has defeated the powers of evil. Now, reform can occur. Hearts can change. Systems can be revamped. God’s new world has begun.
I, personally, am a Christian because I believe God is the one who satisfies the passion for justice, the longing for spirituality, the hunger for relationship, and the yearning for beauty. I see God in Jesus of Nazareth, the world’s true Lord.
Hope, like the psalmist expressed, is what you get when you realize a different worldview is possible. Hope springs to life when those experiencing and feeling the brunt of evil in the world become acutely aware that the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous are not the ones really in charge.
“Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…”N. T. Wright
May you know the place and the person of rescue from evil. And may you be buoyant in faith, confident in hope, and overflowing with love.