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One of the most vexing questions that human beings have about God is the relationship of the Divine to evil. If God is all powerful and all loving, why does God allow evil to happen, especially to good people? These questions are known in theology as questions of theodicy.

A spiritual response to this question is found in the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples, one that has been passed down to us. In the translations of the Lord’s Prayer, we see translators struggling as they render Jesus’ prayer into English. In the Book of Common Prayer in the traditional form we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Using the contemporary form in the Prayer Book we pray, “save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil.” Our sister Anglicans in New Zealand render the prayer as:

In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.From trials too great to endure, spare us.From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

These translations grasp the ambiguity of evil which confronts us in our experience. Evil can feel like a power that is external to us which manipulates us into complicity—lead us not into temptation. In this concept, God can be seen as the great Tester or the opposite, standing by while Satan reigns. God is aloof in the testing, but present to deliver. Cold comfort for many.
“Save us from the time of trial” seems to recognize that life inherently brings struggle, by its nature. God doesn’t necessarily cause these trials–chance, other people’s choices and our own can lead to brokenness and suffering. In the midst of this tension, we recognize God’s presence to save, to make whole.

The Kiwis recognize and claim the tension, our experience can feel like both temptation and testing. In the face of evil too great to endure, God can be called upon to strengthen, spare, and free. We will not avoid evil, but God will be present to aid, allowing us to endure.

As we enter the third week of Lent and contemplate Scripture’s handling of oppression, vice, and random acts of destruction, along with this week’s horrors in Ukraine and along our Southern border, we are called to examine our experience of evil. Evil is present and we will encounter it. We will also commit it and be complicit with the evil of others. Whether we look to God as a Source of strength, companionship, and liberation to counter it will depend on our theology, our view of God. Jesus’ prayer invites us to see God as the deliverer.

The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector