THE LONG SILENCE
At the end of time, billions of people...

THE LONG SILENCE

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At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly…not with cringing shame, but with belligerence. "How can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?" snapped a pert young girl. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror...beatings...torture...death!" In another group, a Negro boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched for no crime but being black! We suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till only death gave release." In another group, a young girl stared with sullen eyes. On her forehead was the stamp illegitimate. "To endure my stigma," she murmured, "was beyond, beyond..." and her voice trailed off, to be taken up by others. Far across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred. Indeed, what did God know of what man had been forced to endure in this world? After all, God leads a pretty sheltered life, she said. So each of these groups sent forth a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a Negro, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate, a horribly deformed arthritic, a person from Hiroshima and one from a Siberian slave camp. In the centre of the plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple. Before God would be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth...as a man. But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself: Let Him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none will know who is really His father. Give Him a work so difficult that even His family will question His wisdom in His work. Let Him try to describe what no one has ever seen, tasted, heard or smelled. Let Him try to describe God to man. Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends. Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, convicted by a cowardly judge. At last, let Him see what it means to be terribly alone, completely abandoned by every living thing. Let Him be tortured, and then let Him die. Let Him die so that there can be no doubt He died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify His death. As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throng of people assembled. When the last one had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence...Those who had spoken their judgment of God quietly departed. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew: God had already served His sentence. When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Rev. 8:1

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