Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Cruel world?    (11/4/2018 )

Someone commented to me recently, “It’s a cruel world!”  She was particularly recalling her African experience of being with families facing poverty and starvation, where children had died and where there was little prospect of improvement.

As we look back to the First World War on this one hundredth anniversary, it seems utterly cruel that young men, including teenagers, were repeatedly sent ‘over the top’ to face the onslaught of machine guns and shells. That was the cruellest of cruel wars.

Today, in many countries of the world, people are facing cruelty from their neighbours, from invading forces, and from those who believe differently.  There have been shootings in schools and places of worship, and we are shocked by callous murder and the suffering of innocent children and those caring for them.

The Bible is true to life in its recording of cruelty that goes right back to Cain killing his brother Abel (see Genesis 4, verses 1-16).  The cruelty of the invading Babylonians who smashed babies against rocks leads to the anguished cry - ‘may the same things be done to your children!’ (Psalm 137, verse 9).

Cruelty has a long history, and it is not finished yet.  But it will not have the last word.

But what’s gone wrong?  And why is there such a destructive streak in human nature?

The Bible’s answer is that people have turned away from God, grabbed power for themselves, and have looked at people who are ‘different’ with growing hatred.  Greed has fed their self-centredness, and they have become blinded to others and their needs.  The world is in trouble.

In contrast, God is a God of mercy and compassion. Jesus himself suffered the cruelty of the cross, iron nails driven through hands and feet - unimaginable pain.  Yet he would not meet such suffering with threats or revenge but with forgiveness (Luke 23, 34).

Jesus’ died and rose from death in order to destroy death’s power  He suffered cruelty in order to put an end to it. His nature and his love are a constant challenge to all cruelty.  God loved the world so much, the gospel says, he sent his Son to be its Saviour (John 3, 16 & 17).  He came to make a difference, to change human nature so that cruelty is replaced by compassion, and hearts of stone are warmed into life and feeling.

It does sometimes seem a cruel world. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’ can leave us reeling - how could people treat anyone like that?  The powers of nature and disease can be cruel.

But God’s plan is for a new creation, where suffering and evil and tears are ended.  Peter, who travelled with Jesus, wrote later - “We wait for God’s promise: new heavens and a new earth where goodness will be at home” (2 Peter 3,13).  The days of cruelty and suffering will be over. We can be part of that process today.


I pray for those suffering bitter cruelty today.  Restrain those who are cruel.  Teach us compassion, kindness, mercy and love, in the spirit of Jesus.

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