When Bullies Don't Suffer
There is the way things tend to work out in life, and then there is the way life works out in our imagination. In our imagination, people get their just desserts. The good are rewarded and the wicked are punished, at the least there is some variation on that theme; but with that variation there is always some degree of justification lent to the "good" people with whom we prefer to identify ourselves. Particularly adept story tellers (in Hollywood or elsewhere) might tease us by allowing a bad person to prosper from time to time. They might also shock us by having a good person meet their end in an untimely way. Even in those instances, though, we are always provided some just resolution to the narrative before the credits role.
The hard side of real life (and not reel life), though is that the credits don't roll in a timely way. When the unjust get called out and caught and the just are lifted up, then the credits should roll. Real life just keeps rolling on, and sometimes good people suffer needlessly...and sometimes bullies and bad people don't suffer much at all.
It's not fair.
The challenge for us is to figure out how we can relate to God, and to each other, in the face of life being not fair, with the truth that the credits don't roll in a timely way and in the wake of seeing good people suffer when the bad get away with "it." Job continues to call out his friends in that regard by rejecting their hypothesis that there is something in him that justifies his suffering. He must have done/thought/intended something to deserve all he is going through. But we know, and can see, that he hasn't done a bloody thing. Above all other people...he is blameless...then WHY!?!
Paul is happy to recount to us how much he has suffered for the sake of the Gospel. His litany of woe rivals Job's, and yet he wears that suffering on his sleeve as a justification of his own credibility. Would you trust a leader who has been so blatantly unsuccessful? Only in a Hollywood-style epic, when we know the end of the good is, well, good.
The invitation being tendered to us today as people of faith is to willingly embrace the fact that in real life bullies don't always suffer. In real life, good people are not always rescued. Our task, our mission, is to strive for the justice of God's kingdom where what is wrong is always being made right, what is lost is always being found, what is bound is always being released and what is dead is always being raised...and while we are in this life, the credits don't yet roll. Reaching out to one another in Christ is our ongoing solution to this challenge, sharing the burden of the call to do something about injustice while striving for justice. It's not about waiting to see the credits roll so that this complicated plot-line of life is resolved by some celestial script-writer. Life is about being in this moment, working toward the justice of God and the hope of new life in Christ.
What makes things right? We do, as we strive for peace and justice...respecting the grace and dignity of every living thing be they victim or bully. That doesn't make life fair, but it does much to overcome this existential block we confront as an unfair life confronts the good we expect of the Almighty.