Right now we live in a culture that loves to vilify history and all who came before us.
And no one is safe. From writers to missionaries, saints to sinners, politicians to people of interest. Apparently it is our job today to hold up to the microscope those who came before and point out all the sordid details of their lives.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am all for understanding history and seeing it from a realistic perspective. I have no problem with acknowledging the good, the bad, and the ugly of each culture and each person.
As long as it’s done with a certain amount of humility and respect. But more on this later.
As a culture, we don’t seem to understand how to hit that middle line. When discussing history, we tend to make people into either amazing saints or horrible sinners. What if we simply acknowledge history is full of people? Broken, imperfect people who sometimes did amazing things but weren’t perfect.
In other words, people who were just like us.
One of the biggest problems I see in our culture today is collective pride.
And we could learn a lesson from Noah’s Rainbow and the Rabbis.
The Problem of Evil
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page: Noah’s story is found in Genesis chapters 6-9. And those chapters tell the story of a creation filled with wickedness. So wicked that we are told in verses 5-6 “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”
I can’t imagine how bad things were for God’s heart to be grieved, but it had to be pretty bad. It sounds like a horrible time to be alive.
People often struggle with having an all powerful God and the problem of evil on earth.
But here’s the interesting thing about our struggle. When we struggle with evil on earth it’s usually because we struggle with someone else’s evil. A murder, rapist, terrorist, whatever. We tend to point at someone else’s sin and say “God how can You allow that! Why aren’t You stopping them!” But how often do we realize that sin is sin to God? In reality all sin is worthy of punishment whether it’s a little white lie or a full fledged murder.
All sin is evil in God’s sight. Including your’s and mine.
Therefore, if we really want God to deal with evil then we need to be prepared to have our own hearts exposed and judged.
My friends, here’s one way an all powerful God can deal with evil, by destroying all life on the earth.
God’s allowance of evil on earth is partly due to mercy. He’s giving all of us a chance to know Him, because the reality is none of us deserve to be here.
Trust me, more so than ever I have begun to cry out to God, begging Him to move and change hearts, to open eyes, and heal the division. I have been begging God to remove those who are evil and lift up those who want to truly help. But I am learning to do this with a heart open to seeing my own failures, and my own need for repentance and change.
I am learning I’m not always the innocent person I thought I was.
I share a part of the blame.
So, we need to be careful when we ask God to deal with evil. Our own quiet private sins that we have learned to live with and tend to wink at are just as disgusting in God’s eyes as the bigger sins. If God were to deal with sin as sin deserved no one would escape. It is the mercy of God that He is patient and allows each of us a chance to know Him.
But let’s get back to the story of Noah.
The Rainbow and the Rabbis
You probably remember the story. God saves Noah, his family, and a good amount of animals on the ark. For forty days the water falls. And for months the family is stuck on this huge boat. But finally the waters begin to rescind, and Noah’s family is able to leave the ark.
In response to God’s provision, Noah builds an altar and sacrifices. And in verse 8:21 we read “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”
God makes a covenant with His creation that He would never again flood the earth. No matter how bad things get, no matter how evil people become, God will respond with mercy and grace.
And as a sign of the covenant, God puts a rainbow in the sky.
Here’s the interesting thing about the rainbow. As a child in the Church I was always taught the rainbow was a sign of God’s patience and mercy. It was a reminder that God would never flood the earth again. Which is true and that’s a great thing to teach our children. But here’s the lesson for us adults. The rabbis (Jewish teachers) taught that every generation that sees the rainbow is a generation that deserves destruction.
In other words, if we were the generation living at the time of Noah, God would still have sent the flood.
Which brings us back to our topic at hand, the vilification of history.
Right now we have a culture that loves to turn our noses down at those who came before us and decry all the wicked things they did. And as I said earlier, it is appropriate to recognize people are people and often do horrible things. It’s appropriate to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity. But we need to recognize that we are just as good, just as bad, and just as ugly as those who came before.
The generation in Noah’s day didn’t hold the patent on sin. And we do not get the right to hold our heads high and declare that we are better than any who came before us. Our sins may be different but in the eyes of God they are no better.
Were the people in history perfect? Obviously not. They made plenty of mistakes and Lord-willing we are able to learn from them.
But are we that much better than those who came before? Where’s the humility and respect when we look at history? Humility that we aren’t always better, and respect that many of these people were doing the best they could. Or at least, what they thought was the best.
I wonder what our descendants will one day say about us? I wonder how harshly this generation will be judged by those who come after?
Let’s learn the lesson of the rainbow and the Rabbis. Let’s look with compassion on those who came before, that our descendants may do the same for us.
Respect and humility can go a long way.