I remember when a friend posed a question to me our senior year of college; her Theology professor had asked it of the class during their final meeting. “What if Jesus never existed? What if he never ‘rose again’? What if all you believe in - gave your life to - wasn’t, and isn't, real? What then?”
I remember the words tumbling through my brain like the buildings in the 2011 Japanese earthquake, as my friend asked me the same.
“What then?” Is there a point?
In a similar/separate vein, throughout today's shapeshifting headlines, does “good” have a place in a continuously “evil” world? Or is it made irrelevant by such evil? With a new story popping up every few days, whether of terror, death, or everything in between, what point does "good" serve - especially in the small actions most of us can offer in the wake of such grand acts of injustice and destruction and evil?
I think the question comes down to what you give “ultimate” power to. For example: Are large acts of evil big, and small acts of love small? What constitutes “large” and “small”?
The large acts of evil we’ve seen have affected many lives very clearly. People are/have been killed. While small acts of love—a meal for a homeless person, a warm smile and hello, an extension of hospitality to someone down the street—seem to affect a limited number.
But when you look at the root of both actions, we find opposite effects.
When evil stomps onto a busy street in France, it takes lives and sucks life even from those left (seemingly) unaffected; aka, those of us thousands of miles away. Evil kills and stunts; it cuts off and leaves for dead. Evil tells you the end is here, and the story has been written.
On the contrary, good multiplies. Even in its smallest manifestation, “good” grows. Good tells you that the page is blank and the story is happening now; the pen is in your hand, the character is yours to guide and shape and change and make new.
You see, “evil” cannot sustain itself - it can only die. Genocide, murder, suicide, bombing; they are bent not on creation, but on destruction.
But “Good” always multiplies. It breathes. It stretches its arms and asks for more; whether the sun shines or the rain falls, it receives sustenance. It is fed, it is growing, and even when it “dies”, it enters a cycle of rebirth.
Here we see the distinction between the necessity of “Good” (and its vastness), and the ultimate smallness of “evil” (and its [self] destruction).
We plant seeds for change; we work for it expectantly. But even in the now, while we grieve, while we are silent, while we wait for growth; even if tomorrow’s headlines look as bleak as today’s, or yesterday’s, or last week’s, or the week before - Good Still Remains. And as long as Good remains, evil fails. And as long as we remain dedicated to showing up, evil fails.
And it matters, because we are a part of this, and this is important. And it all starts with love. Not cheap, or borrowed, or bought on credit to be paid at a later date; freely given and filled to the brim with senseless, passionate, and open-armed grace. Not for abuse, but for reuse, recycling, and repurposing for others who are in desperate need of something far more than despair or heartache or deep, deep suffering.
Good isn’t useless, friends. And neither are you.
Evil - in the biggest sense (terror groups), the mediumest sense (societal and systematic injustice), and in the smallest sense (intimate betrayal, pain, or harm) - cannot win, so long as we say it can’t.
Hope wins because we say so. So let’s say so. Even if tomorrow comes, and the news doesn’t get lighter - you are not meaningless, and neither is your love.
Even still, we choose hope. Even now, we will not bow to this terror.
PS - My answer to the initial question of “what then”?
“What then” is that I lived a life fuller (I can already say) than I could’ve ever imagined, I loved people more deeply than I ever thought possible, and I showed up for myself and was brave in ways that helped free me and others to truth, freedom, and hope.
Even if everything is made up, the love isn’t.