Evil Repurposed

In the middle of my living room ceiling there hangs a lamp. On closer inspection, however, one might wonder just what it is. In fact, it is an antique Turkish colander made of tinned copper. This kitchen utensil, beautifully crafted long ago during the Ottoman empire, is now wired to light my home. It has been “repurposed.”

I’m a fan of creative repurposing. It’s amazing what clever artists, craftspersons, and engineers can do with items that otherwise may have lost their usefulness. I’ve seen sandals made from old tires, a bench built with discarded skis, and a couch crafted from a vintage phone booth. In my office I have an old butane fuel canister that Christians in Congo fashioned as a rattle for use in their worship. It seems those in the developing world are especially good at repurposing things they might find in a trash bin or junk yard. I admire their resourcefulness and ingenuity! In a very real sense, however, they are simply mimicking the God who created and redeemed them.

We serve a God of purpose! His purpose is that all people, indeed the whole world, would be redeemed and restored to himself. (Ephesians 1:7-10; 2 Timothy 1:8-10) Nothing will deter him from his purpose (Isaiah 14:24), and this is why He is also a God of repurposing! Indeed, even those things set against him he will turn toward his purposes. Such is the God to whom we pray, and we will do well to remember this as we pray to him in this month of our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church around the world today.

Our God is the God of Joseph, who, having been sold into slavery by his hateful brothers, and then, by the hand of God, finding himself a powerful ruler of Egypt during a life-threatening famine, declared something remarkable to his brothers after they were reunited. “As for you,” he told them, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive…” (Genesis 50:20)

The horrible evil that Joseph’s brothers had done was “repurposed” by God for good. Our all- merciful and all-powerful God takes evil and turns it on its head, even using it to accomplish his purposes! He does this kind of thing throughout the history of the Old Testament, but perhaps nowhere do we find it more profoundly displayed than in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, what others intended as pure evil, God used for good, for our eternal good. The cross, a gruesome instrument of torture and death, was repurposed by God to be the means of our salvation and new life! (Acts 2:23-24; 5:30-31)

The God who did these things is our God, and he is the God of the persecuted church, as he has been
from the very beginning. Jesus foretold the suffering of his followers (John 15:18-20), but also promised, remarkably, that even in persecution God would bless them. (Matthew 5:10) In the very first years of the Christian church, this proved to be true. As Saul “was ravaging the church,” and “dragged off men and women and committed them to prison…, those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:3-4) The alarming persecution occurring in Jerusalem resulted in the spread the Gospel into Judea and Samaria, in fulfillment of Jesus’ foretelling of his disciples’ witnessing. (Acts 1:8) Because of the persecution many more came to
know about Jesus! Evil repurposed!

Even as we pray fervently that God would relieve the suffering of persecuted Christians in countries like Afghanistan North Korea, Eritrea, Nigeria, and more, we also pray trusting that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We pray that he will give faith, comfort, and courage to those experiencing such hatred and injustice so that in the midst of great darkness, their light might shine, and in so shining, others will come to see the bright and eternal hope they have in Jesus. We pray this because we know that throughout history and throughout the world God has frequently applied this unexpected strategy to strengthen his people and expand his kingdom of grace. Even in persecution, God is at work! He can and does repurpose even that which is evil.

God has repurposed things for us, too. Just as he repurposed Saul the persecutor to become Paul the preacher, he graciously, and sometimes surprisingly repurposes sinners like you and me to be his servants, working in perhaps unexpected ways to spread his light into a dark world. You’ve been repurposed! And that’s good news! Indeed, your own purpose might be more than you’ve supposed. Ask God. He’ll show you.

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