And only one result has trickled in
The house wins, oh, the house always wins
If evil were a lesser breed than justice after all these years
The righteous would have freed the world of sin
The house wins, oh, the house always wins
You don't have to be alone to be lonely
You might as well give in
You don't have to be sick to be dying
You might as well give in
You don't have to have lost to be lost
Oh, give in
We don't just use the relationship between immediacy and legitimacy to make positive assertions of what we should do. It doesn't just help us to identify initiatives or actions which we should get behind. We also use immediacy to help us determine that which is bad, or at least not worthy of pursuit. One of the most common places this philosophy can be seen is in the discussion of God and the problem of evil. If God were all good and all powerful, then surely evil wouldn't still exist today. A good God would have dealt with the evil by now and eradicated it. That's what the band "OK GO" is essentially saying in their lyrics posted above. If evil was inferior to good - if there was a sovereign, good God - then surely after all of the human history which has transpired, righteousness would have won out already. Wouldn't a good and powerful God's metric be immediacy - to immediately eradicate sin? But it is obvious that evil has continued thus far. In fact, it often seems that evil prevails, so we might as well just give in to the truth that God and righteousness are fanciful illusions and ideals, while evil and destruction will inevitably triumph.
I believe that many Christians would recognize the faulty thinking present in both of the scenarios I've laid out. Immediacy of positive results doesn't legitimize an action, and neither does a lack of immediacy in resolution delegitimize an action or approach to a problem. But knowing something and living it out are two very different things. We may all know that immediacy is a poor metric for morality and wisdom, but our tendency towards instant gratification and wanting to feel as though our decisions have power often overrule our patience and self-discipline. We are more averse to patience than we are to performing an act of immediacy we know in our minds is illogical, unwise, or immoral. For me personally, the difficulty in patient perseverance - in throwing off the metric of immediacy - is most difficult when it comes with working amongst our Roma friends. As of now, we have been trying to walk alongside three different Roma families in an attempt to help them and share the gospel. We have been stolen from. We have been stood up. We have been followed. We have been hounded. We have been used. We have been lied to. And lied to. And lied to again. All of the time, money, energy, phone calls made, walks taken, and questions asked just seem like a waste. We still get used. We still get lied to. There is no indication that change is near, or that change is even possible.
To many who live around the Roma, the conclusion we should draw seems so obvious. Slow and steady does not win the race, it wastes resources. In fact, we were told point blank by a local foundation that they only help Roma kids because they're not quite as hopeless as the adults. The kids are the only ones who have a chance of changing. The adults are a lost cause. We know a lot of people who think we shouldn't "waste" our time on the Roma people at all. Their ways are too ingrained to change. In my mind, I agree with all the naysayers. Patience seems overrated while statistics, efficiency, and common sense seem to dictate that we do something else with our resources. We may not ever see a Roma convert in twenty years of ministry. But upon further reflection, if that's my philosophy - if my metric for ministerial pursuit is immediacy - how would I ever vindicate God's slowness in resolving evil in the world? And an even more convicting question - how would I ever justify God's slowness in resolving evil within me? In my heart, I know that patience and perseverance are what God has called us all to. We are all to be patiently expectant, at least in part because God is that way with us. While God may not call everyone to specifically work with the Roma, we all have people or situations in which God calls us to throw off our metric of immediacy and just patiently rest and expectantly wait in him.
After reflecting on ministry to the Roma, I've concluded that many ministries of which we've heard, encountered, been a part, or established ourselves, have failed to embrace both the patience of God and the assurance of hope God gives. In my mind, the Roma community here in Codlea are parched and cracked earth. Like a remote desert which hasn't seen rain for a decade, their souls and the souls of all they know have not experienced the taste of living water. They are as dry as dry can be. But we ministers and aid workers, we tend to see the Roma and their problems, bring floods of water, and pour it down on the land. We have initiatives, expectations, programs, services, goods, and all sorts of assistances. And when those things don't work in the immediate term, we withdraw those resources to use them more "effectively" elsewhere. All we do with the Roma is create a flash flood in the desert. But that's not what brings forth lasting life in the barrenness of the desert. What I - the very experienced missionary of 1 year - believe the Roma need is persistence. They need slow, consistent rains. They need time to absorb the life giving liquid that is falling down upon them for the first time, and then the second time, the third time, and the fourth time. They need ministers with a patience only God can give. Only God can give the type of patience we need to work with the Roma because only God's assurance that he requires nothing more than our faithfulness, and God's assurance that he is sovereign over the results, provide the stamina and encouragement we need to persist in the desert. With these truths of who God is, what God calls us to, and how God equips us, we can act in love with little regard for the metric of efficiency or immediacy - a metric which often ends up objectifying the very people we claim we desire to help. Instead, God's way allows us to faithfully love in hopeful expectation of God's performing the miracle of regeneration in the heart of the Roma - an act no less miraculous than when he performed it in me.
With the assurance of God's victory over evil, evil, then, is not a lesser breed than justice. That's because God is not a Thanos type of God. He doesn't generally bring about resolution through the snap of his fingers, but through his Word. And words, to be intelligible, must be relational. Praise God for this patience in making his words and the Word intelligible to us. Praise God for his mercy, for it is only due to his patience that we have avoided his immediate judgment and the damnation of our souls. God, rather than instantaneously destroying evil - and us along with it - has decided to patiently work within human history in order to redeem us and share in our burden. His willingness to use imperfect vessels and to incorporate us into the story of redemption is not a sign of weakness or foolishness, but a sign of great mercy and love.
As we persist in our attempts to love others and push back against the curse, particularly as it pertains to the Roma with whom we're working, God is graciously reminding us of his steadfast love and patience with us. He is abounding in mercy and he refuses to allow his children to die in the quagmire of their sin. He stepped into our world to bear what we bear so that he could victoriously lead us out of our captivity. He is patiently forming us to be like the image of Christ. Through the story of God, I am learning that lost causes are the only causes God has to work with when dealing with sinful humanity. Yet over and over again, in my life and in the lives of other converts, God decides to take the "chance" on us, because when he acts, nothing is left to chance. Where God is at work, there is only assurance. As we are conformed to Christ and as we attempt to faithfully serve God, "it is God, who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purposes." If God is at work in and through us, and if God fulfills his good purposes, then surely there is nothing more hopeful and sure than God's accomplished will, which I believe will ultimately include the redemption of the Roma community. And when my children, or grandchildren, or great grandchildren see that day, I pray they find my trivial words and praise God's name for his sovereign work administered in patient love through servants who were attempting to do only one thing, be faithful.