Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hell is Other People--by Linden Malki

 This is the conclusion of Jean-Paul Sartre's one-act play "No Exit",* written in the chaos of WWII France. Sartre, though not a believer in God, did understand some of the important things about sin.  Thinking about relationships, the reading about the effects of King Saul's jealousy and depression,** and stories of dysfunctional relationships from friends and family, I am realizing that sin is incredibly more destructive than we often understand.

The sin that grows out of bad relationships and bad attitudes can have ever-widening ripples and waves of pain, often affecting people who had nothing to do with the original mess. Hurting people react in ways that further hurt themselves and others; sometimes cutting themselves off from life and relationships that could otherwise be healing and positive.  Or worse, they can lash out against not only people they perceive as responsible for their pain, but others who are innocent of any complicity in their hurt.  It is often a generational sin, being passed on through a family, sometimes by repeating their own hurt on others, or resenting others who don't share their pain.  Sometimes there is active destructive behavior, sometimes neglect and cluelessness, or both.  Sometimes it is a family not dealing with something that has hurt one or more of their family members.  Sometimes something is said or not said without intentional malice that is heard with misunderstanding or assumed evil intent.  I'm sure most of us could add to this collection of evil and pain that we humans inflict upon each other.

Unfortunately, Sartre and most of the existentialist writers and thinkers his era rejected the one way out of this hell, seeing humanity with no options but to accept the struggle of a meaningless universe. Looking back at the story of King Saul, we see an alternative to Saul's anger, pain, impatience, and malice. The target of much of this was King David, someone who did know the answer, and though he suffered pain and also did things that caused pain and death, he was blessed with mentors and advisers who could point him to a way out, and he himself had had experiences with God that gave him the right place  to go in his darkest hours. He had family and friends who loved him and whom he loved.  He is called "a man after God's own heart" *** despite his failures and misdeeds because he was willing to love (sometimes unwisely), confess his sin, and to see truth and act upon it.  He knew where to go for wisdom, comfort, forgiveness and strength. Are we willing to pray for people before we argue with them, to recognize the influence of evil in others and turn it over the the One who can deal with it , to accept the love of God  and His people,  and pass it on where it is most needed?

 *Jean-Paul Sartre,  "Huit Clos",  1944
** I Samuel 10-31
*** I Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22

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