Tom Davis, president of Children’s HopeChest, wrote in his book Red Letters: Living A Faith That Bleeds the following:
Adanna’s name is a beautiful African word meaning “father’s daughter.” But Adanna won’t live until the next harvest unless something drastic happens. In her home country of Zimbabwe, there are no jobs, there is no money, and the only thing certain is the death that surrounds her.
The expected life span for people in her country is only thirty-three. She has watched her mother, her father, and her sister waste away from AIDS. Adanna is now in charge of her family. She is the head of the household.
She is ten years old.
Adanna’s parents left no way for her to care for herself and the rest of her family. She has exhausted every favor from her neighbors, every form of assistance from surviving relatives, and sold her last possession for food. But she and her brother and sister woke up starving again this morning.
There is only one way for them to survive. Adanna has heard about a group of local men who will trade food for sex. Dare she even consider such a thing? For all her young life she has dreamed of someday having a family of her own. She has protected her purity because she wants the man she marries to be the only lover she ever knows. Her mother taught her this.
Adanna’s dreams and her purity mean everything to her, but if she doesn’t eat soon, neither will matter. She will be dead.
Children grow up fast in Africa. She makes a decision. A terrible, necessary decision. She goes to these men. Perhaps they will have compassion for her. Perhaps they’ll give her food without asking anything in return. They look at her, they grab her, they fondle her, and they laugh. They refuse to give her food. “Why should we give you anything, you ugly little mongrel?” they shout.
They tell her to go into the back room of the store and wait. She steps into a room that smells of urine and mold. She is shaking. A sickly man is sleeping in the corner.
Suddenly, three men come in drinking and shouting. They approach her not as a human being but as a mere animal. She screams. She cries. Nobody is listening. Nobody cares.
And they steal her dreams.
She leaves with food. Enough to keeper her alive. But what kind of life? She has just contracted HIV. She will die of AIDS within three years.”
I worked in Swaziland a few years back with orphans that lost their parents because of AIDS. If there is no judgment, what happened to that little girl will go unchecked forever. But, I know in my bones that this evil will be exposed and righted. I can feel it. Almost taste it. I’ve seen glimpses of this justice in my own redemption and in deeds of righteousness upon the hazy horizon done by fellow human beings. Many of you know this sense of justice also. N.T. Wright asks, “How does it happen that, on the one hand, we all share not just a sense that there is such a thing as justice, but a passion for it, a deep longing that things should be put to rights, a sense of out-of-jointness that goes on nagging and gnawing and sometimes screaming at us—and yet, on the other hand, after a millennia of human struggle and searching and love and longing and hatred and hope and fussing and philosophizing, we still can’t seem to get much closer to it than people did in the most ancient societies we discover?” We all know it within the deep recesses and caverns of our hearts—there are wrongs and rights and the books will one day be opened.
Why? I think this inner sense of affirmation over good and contempt for evil is as others have described “an echo of eternity.” After all, eternity has been embedded within our hearts (Ecc. 3:11). Our sense of morality is a clue to the fundamental feature of our universe—it is governed by a supreme being. Morality is a feature of our society and begs the question of who. Merely attributing the Law to instinct or social custom will not do. It is real and outside of ourselves. We long for justice because justice is real and it will one day prevail. We cry out because we know this is true. “How long, O’ LORD?” has been on the tongues of redeemed people as long as there has been evil to assault the human soul (Psa. 4:2, 6:3, 13:1-2, 35:17, 74:10, 79:5, 89:46, 94:3; Isa. 6:11; Hab. 1:2).
What is God’s answer? In the book of Revelation, John writes to encourage Christians who are losing their lives under the tyrannical reign of the Roman authorities. In Revelation 6, we find a group of martyrs under the altar crying out, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Rev. 6:10)” Notice that they cry out to the “Sovereign” Lord. He is able to execute justice. He is controlling history. What is his response? “Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”
First, they are given a white robe.The whiteness of their robe suggests purity and righteousness. Their lives are no longer stained with violence but are protected by the blood of Christ which cleanses them from all unrighteousness. Their lives are forever unending in the presence of God. Second, they are told to wait. As the book shows, God is working throughout history bringing all things to their end for his glory. His righteous action is not to be distrusted. God is always on time. Jesus is never late. Wait for God’s justice. As A.W. Tozer remarked once, “The wheels of God’s judgment may grind slow but they grind exceedingly fine.” Third, they are told there is a divine quota of martyrs. A standard Jewish eschatological belief of the day was that there would be certain afflictions or woes that would precede the coming or return of the Messiah. The Messianic woes as they are called are the sufferings associated with the arrival and implementation of the end times (Dan. 7:21-27, 12:1; Jub. 23:13; 4 Ezra 4:36-37, 13:16-19; Mark 13:20; Col. 1:24; Rev. 7:14). God has a plan for their lives and their deaths. Our lives and the preservation of them are not the highest goods. God’s glory is the highest good. Divine vindication will come later, but God’s victory unmistakably leads through the cross. Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley, said, “It is the way the Master went, should not the servant tread it still?”
What is my response to the great evil in the world? How can people who have unimaginable evils done to them respond in a godly fashion? What are we to do as we plea “How long, O Sovereign Lord?” How long until you judge the men who killed Adanna? We rest in the finished work of Christ. We wait on his divine judgment. We recognize his good and right plans within his world. It is not easy but God is faithful. He will judge the earth and we will rejoice that truth, goodness, justice, and beauty will one day reign eternally.