Marvin Repinski: With the grain or against the grain

Published 6:10 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

“Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness.” Bible, Ephesians 5:8)

To think of human beings not having the ability to choose, to not have the mastery of choice, is a way that most of us find uncomfortable. In fact, choice and exercising free will, is our avenue to the goodness that affirms our humanity.

In a previous essay, I brought attention to that puzzle of the presence of evil, and that word encompasses every negative hurt, distress, pain, and suffering that is the pattern of our lives. That does not mean to leave out the beleaguered planet (climate change, earthquakes, etc.), the lives of animals, plants, and what none of us can escape. Evil and its many expressions are every person’s knock on the door.

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Placing this subject in the context of a statement allows me to make some minimal sense of the formidable tragic side of life.

How an eight-year-old sees God:

A church newsletter included this essay by Danny Dutton, age 8. His third grade Sunday School teacher had asked her students to explain God.

“One of God’s main jobs is making people. He makes these to put in the place of the ones that die so there will be enough  people to take care of things here on earth. He doesn’t make grownups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn’t have to take up his valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that up to the mothers and fathers.  I think it works out pretty good.”

Our choice is to be against the grain — doing the good or just be whipped. Among the beautiful, resilient, and positive parts of life are the innocent thoughts of many children. God is the creator and yet in the world we know, there are waves of terror. Radical honesty requires us to acknowledge that we do not know all the answers to questions that are like dark pools along the trail.

Never run from the monster, the destructive forces that nibble at our insides. And the monster of evil is not contained no matter what the effort. Yet, we have our lives to live. Let us not cheat our lives by giving in to forces too easily, to forces labeled destructive. I’m thinking of the story of Jesus driving a demon out of a disabled person. (Luke 11:14-23). The “demon,” representing a force of evil, was Jesus giving us an example; to struggle against, to gather our resources to eliminate the sores and monstrosities that were against the creation. Jesus, as other leaders in the great religions of the world, had a similar mission: to limit the aggression of destructive energies. The shared goal is to reduce the oppression, the suffering, to encourage the possibility of wholeness, health, addressing the brokenness of nature.

I can imagine words spoken by a disciple standing nearby. There is a story here. Our Master splits the grain of the wood; He goes against the grain of resistance. A devout person says, “We are called to do mending; we are called to put together the broken parts of this world!”

A prayer that leads me to a time of silence to my questions related to evil is as follows:

“God of justice, send holy ones to challenge my complacency.

Help me to bear them, and let my courage grow in the light of their example.”

Persons reading my column may desire to enlarge their spiritual quests by having a conversation with sources of information in the Bible.

The following references are, I believe, helpful answers to “where is it?”


Matthew 5.1-12

Christmas Story

Matthew 1, 2; Luke 2

Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus

Matthew 26-28; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24; John 13-21

Golden Rule

Matthew 7:12; Luke 6.31

Good Samaritan

  Luke 10

Great Commandment

Luke 10.27; Matthew 22.34-40

Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6.9-13; Luke 11.1-4

Love Chapter

1 Corinthians 13

Prodigal Son

Luke 15

Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5-7

Shepherd Psalm

Psalm 23

Ten Commandments

Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5

Let us pray

Eternal God, Lord of our lives, as the loud voices of a competing world vie for our attention, allow us to embrace the possibility of communion with you that calms our troubled minds and restores our inner lives.

Still us within, surround us without, guide us from above, until in your calmness we are prepared for partnership and ministry in our world. Amen.