this morning, as i thought about God and God's relationship to us, i tried to come up with images of the two most evil people i could think of. immediately, hitler and stalin popped into my head. what was it about them that conjured up evil for me? was it their lust for power? was it their indifference to the suffering of their compatriots? for me, their greatest evil and the cause of all the evil things they set in motion was their conviction that what they did was for the greater good. from my limited knowledge of the lives of these two men, it seems that they believed that, by ending the lives of millions that they were convinced impeded the progress of their own vision of a better world, they were moving those who remained forward toward that vision. this is not to suggest that each man shared the same vision, but rather that each one was convinced that his own vision was the correct one. so much evil is done in the name of "the greater good."
the question i put to myself was, "why would a good and loving God allow such consummate evil to exist, causing so much suffering?" in thinking about some reasonable answer, i considered my own relationship to my two adult children. when they make decisions and take actions that i know will lead to an unsatisfactory result, my impulse is to intervene, to tell them how wrong i believe the course one of them is following is. sometimes, i do exactly that, but more often, i bite my lip and stand ready to help them when they call on me. if one of them asks for advice, i give it, but generally i try to keep unsolicited advice to myself.
is that what God does on a much larger scale? does God allow us to fumble along, refraining from intervening in most instances? does God patiently wait on us to right the wrongs we see being perpetrated against the powerless? does God keep silence unless we call for help and guidance? is God's seeming inaction the only way we can be free to learn and grow?
my prayer today is that each of us seeks to understand the existence of suffering and evil and that our thoughts lead us to truth that enables us to serve our fellow creatures without seeking to impose our own vision on their lives.