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Why does God tolerate injustice?

Source: "On Prayer" by Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov).  

Translation from the original Russian text into Greek by Priest-Monk Zacharias.

Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegiac Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, Essex, England, 1993.




The reply of the Living God to the Elder Sophrony when he asked: "Why does God allow injustice in the world?", was a revelation to those very ones who were responsible for that state:

You, God, have known my folly, and my delinquencies were not hidden from You” (Ps.68:6)… Now I live in a debilitated form, yet You, Christ, are calling me to believe and accept the Revelation that the Father loves us, as He loves You, His Only-begotten Son:  The Father loves you, because you have loved Me… but I do not ask only about them, but also about those who have believed in Me through their word, so that all may be one, as You, Father are in Me and I in  You – so that they too be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me… and that You have loved them, as You have loved Me  (John 16:27,  17:20-23).

The faith in Christ renders us immeasurably bold. Not in vain does the blessed Paul say that “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. That which seems to the “mind of the flesh” (Col.2:18) as perfect foolishness, to the faithful it is wisdom and strength, life and light (see. 1 Cor. 1:18-30; Col. 2:14; 3:18-19).

But if for each person the bravery of being Christian is an act that surpasses the measure of man, what can I say of myself?  From my young years I was conscious of my insignificance; even in the presence of people, I am diffident.  And yet: a small Light visited me, and I believed in Christ-God.  Then followed a more plentiful effusion of Light, joined to my faith in Him - and it deepened, through the new knowledge.

Albeit being truly “naught”, nevertheless, the Uncreated Light revealed itself to me, precisely for the sake of my in-Christ trust.  My nous transcended the wall of my – truly perplexed – logic, the inability to understand that the Hypostasis possesses knowledge that embraces everything, such that nothing is hidden from Him in the entire worldly being:  Not even one of these (birds) shall fall upon the earth without (the will of) our Father. As for us, even all the hairs of our head are numbered… for, nothing is concealed that shall not be revealed and (nothing) hidden that shall not be known” (see Matth. 10:29-30 and 26). “And there is no creation that is invisible before Him; everything is naked and bared to His eyes (Hebr. 4:13).

My relations with God have a strictly personal character. Sin is unthinkable outside of them; without them, there is no love between man and God.  Without them, there is no ontological knowledge of God, nor can there be. Without them, everything is swallowed up by death and is sunk into actual non-being.

That which I intend to write about now, took place more than half a century ago. It was a period of intensity. Many things – all things, to be exact – were unclear for me.  And life is so brief!  And God is so infinitely large and distanced!  Who shall teach me to head towards Him by the straight path and not waste time wandering by other roads?  I had certainly sought such a person or such persons, who would be able to help me and become my guides.

The fact, however, that a power descended upon me that was unknown to me until then - a prayer, which was active within me day and night – somehow rendered that prayer my natural support all the time. There were moments during which – as I believe – I received correction from God.  I will mention certain examples, which had put their stamp in me and became the cornerstones of my life.  

Not discerning God’s justice in the fortunes of mankind and in each and every person in general, I felt beleaguered in the dark, which had overwhelmed me.  I was like a young infant, helpless in everything.  Feeling the need to comprehend something, I became impatient because of the pain of my soul and awaited help from God.  And God condescended to my ignorance.  He did not crush my outspokenness, but, like a mother, He suffered with me and would hasten to reply to me.  And this was not only once, but again and again, many times. It was in a similar way that He had responded to much afflicted Job, who had stormily expressed his protests.

Behold one of my instances: This took place in France, around 1925, prior to my departure for Athos.  For a long time I had been tearfully praying to God:  “Find a way to save the world - all of us corrupt and vulgar ones”.  Especially fervent was my prayer for “these little ones”, the poor and exhausted ones.  Towards the end of the night, when my strength was nearly depleted, for a while my prayer became disturbed on account of the thought that came to me:  “If I, thus, with all the strength of my heart, suffer along with mankind, how can I think it possible that God looks indifferently at the injury of many millions of people that He had created? Why does He allow the innumerable acts of violence in the world?”  I would thus turn to Him with the insane question: “Where are You?” … In reply I heard these words in my heart: “Were you perhaps crucified for them?”  These gentle words that echoed through the Spirit in my heart shook me:  The Crucified One replied to me - as God.

The reply was succinct, but a word from God brings to the soul a new, special sensation of being.  The heart receives an experience of being filled with a light-bearing life.  The nous suddenly grasps meanings that were until that moment hidden.  God’s proximity inspires us. Contact with His creative power vivifies us.  The knowledge acquired through this path is qualitatively different to that which is acquired through philosophical intellect: Along with the comprehension of the realities of the spiritual world, another form of life is transmitted to one’s entire existence – perhaps similar to that of the first-fashioned man.  This ontological knowledge of God becomes joined to the current of love that is extended to Him in prayer.

God’s reply is succinct, but in it is contained a deeper and broader revelation that cannot be interpreted.  See... I am searching for a certain portrayal, accessible to your logical perception, so that with it, I can somehow reveal the order of things and describe that very fact… Being in our fallen state, we are cut off from God by an invisible (to the naked eye) screen; indiscernible, and as such, impenetrable for us.  Then, in an unforeseen manner, by a gesture of God, a tiny slit is described on that screen. By focusing the eye on it, we can see, not only that which comprises the request of our prayer, but also the broader horizons related to that perspective.  If our eye  is “simple” (see Matth.6:22), and we do not distract it from the vision given to us, it will perceive – it will somehow sense – the infinity of the radiant kingdom.  And then it will receive the due solution, not only of our problem, but also of an entire series of other problems that are linked to it.  In divine eternity, all “parallels” interlace in a knot, as do all the diverging radii.

Then a "state" was given to me (forgive me, the fool, and without anger accept me as I am), from which thoughts such as these sprang forth: 

If God is thus, as revealed by the Crucified Christ, then we all – and we alone – are responsible for all the evils that have filled the entire history of mankind.  God revealed Himself in our flesh. Humbling Himself was a characteristic of His love. Divine humility can be characterized as a readiness, as an opening to accept everyone and all of the plagues that came from the hands of the people that He had created.  And that humility is – most certainly – “indescribable”.   We not only rejected Him, but even murdered Him with a death that was shameful in our sight.

And I saw in the Spirit that the cause of mankind’s unsolved torments was NOT the absence of mercy towards us on the part of God, but exclusively and only man’s abuse of the gift of freedom, which was still not withdrawn from us, even in our Fall.

In my “quarrel” with Him, He won.  First of all, I was engulfed by a bitter feeling of shame for my foolish and haughty thought - that I was supposedly more merciful than He.  Out of that shame, came the self reproach of repentance. Then everything was more than covered, by joy:  the Lord not only didn’t reproach me for my audacity; He even showered my full of foolishness head with His bounteous blessing.  Much later, I came to realize that even that prayer for mercy was an Energy of His within me.


Translation:  A.N.

Article published in English on: 02-05-2018.

Last update: 02-05-2018.