Evil, Forgiveness, and Peace

None of us knows and that makes it a mystery

If life is a comedy, then why all the tragedy

Three-and-a-half pounds of brain try to figure out

What this world is all about

And is there an eternity, is there an eternity?

 – Chris Rice, “Big Enough,” Past the Edges, 1998.

Recently I quoted Chris Rice in a blog entitled “A Shift in the Wind.” Some might have been surprised to see me still using the music of Chris Rice since he is caught up in allegations regarding his moral conduct. Allegations[1] of this nature bring up difficult questions for the Christian community and society in general. How does one treat those who have fallen? How do we recognise the fact that we all sin and hurt others (Romans 3:23) and all must rely upon the grace of God, while seeking to protect those who might be harmed by an offender (who in some cases may be a predator)? I have often quoted Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who said, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”[2] This sentiment is certainly worth thinking upon in the current context. If the investigation into the allegations regarding Chris Rice proves them to be true, reparations will need to be made to the victim or victims. Chris Rice might also submit to a formal restoration process and be treated with counselling and sensitivity training. Until then, and later when the truth is brought into the light, how does the average person view the work and service of Chris Rice?

Many have appreciated the music and visual art of this creative individual. Rice has ten studio albums of music to his credit with success in both the Christian genre and mainstream pop. The album, Past the Edges, from which I quoted, reached number 4 on the US Christian charts and the album Amusing generated Adult Contemporary hits with the songs “Lemonade” and “When Did You Fall.” In recent years, Chris Rice has begun painting and his original oils and art prints have been enjoyed by many. Does sin and harm to others negate previous good work? Does a prosecution for crimes committed mean that the career of the individual must be cancelled?

These are tough questions, and we must recognise that even if a person is forgiven for their sins and moves on with their life, the victims may suffer for many years beyond the scope of the original crimes. Is it fair for the offender to move on and have people continue to enjoy the offender’s vocation, while the victim may not have the same ability to enjoy the peace attained by the offender?

The reality is that those who follow Jesus may view these questions differently than those who do not believe in a higher power. The Christian knows that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight” (Romans 3:23, 24 NLT). The Christian knows that peace is offered to both sinner and victim. As Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27 NLT). The good news is that there is a way forward in such situations.

One of the most iconic pictures of grace, forgiveness, and peace is the image of Pope John Paul II sitting in a prison cell with the man who had tried to kill him with four bullets to the abdomen. Faith in Jesus brought peace and forgiveness to this situation. Can we live to forgive?

One of the most horrific accounts of sin is found in 2 Samuel 11 where we read of the King of Israel, David, who lies, commits adultery, and murders a man because of his lust for a woman named Bathsheba. Of course, this same David generated some of the greatest works of the Bible. The Psalms are filled with his great works of art including Psalm 23 (the Lord is my shepherd), Psalm 8 (when I look to the heavens…), and Psalm 51 (create in me a clean heart, oh Lord, my God and renew a right spirit within me). What do we do with these great works considering the great wrongs done by the same man? Few suggest that we should remove these Psalms from the canon of the Bible or no longer read them.

Yet, let us also consider the life of men like David and Chris Rice to be warnings regarding the lives we lead. Both forgiveness for the offender and peace for the victim can be found in the teachings of Jesus. [3]

[1] “While these remain allegations at this point, we are treating them as credible because of the source of the allegations and corroborating evidence we have discovered.” – Statement by Robert H Cunningham, senior pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky; “Christian artist Chris Rice investigated over sexual assault claims,” Christianity Today, October 16, 2020.

[2] https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Gulag_Archipelago

[3] Thanks to Karen Huston Richardson for suggesting this blog topic.

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