"If we didn't deal very well with Job, we probably won't deal well with Jesus Christ. The mystery of why there are thorns on the rose eventually becomes a question of who God is. We can glibly say that God is good, God is merciful, kind and faithful. But a great many people on earth say, 'I don't have any evidence for that. Maybe you do, but I don't.'

"And even in America, for all our wealth, there are myriad individual lives of suffering and poverty. Were we honest, maybe many of us would admit we do not have a lot of conviction about God's goodness either.

"For some people, faith seems to be whistling in the dark, hoping against hope that God is indeed good. But in brutally honest moments they're not sure they believe or feel it. They may want to. That's a beginning, a work of grace, and one should not dismiss it. It may be the path for many. We may begin by whistling in the dark, but that isn't faith yet.

"Faith is a unique creation of both grace and freedom. It's a choice we become capable of by God's love. 'A mysterious meeting of two freedoms,' GuiƩrrez calls it. A freedom that God is and a freedom that we must become.

"The rabbinic tradition relates the story of a young fugitive who comes to a town where the people are willing to take him in and hide him. When soldiers arrive in search of the fugitive, the townspeople protest that they know nothing. Suspecting their lie, the soldiers warn that, unless the fugitive is turned over by morning, the entire town will be destroyed.

"In deep fear the people rush to their pastor for counsel. The priest, greatly troubled, starts searching scripture for an answer. All night he reads and finds nothing. Then, just before dawn, his eyes fall on a passage, 'It is better that one man should die for the people than the whole people be lost.'

"He is sure that's the answer, and goes to the people with the news. The soldiers are informed that the fugitive is indeed hidden among them, and the young man is taken away. They throw a big party in the town, lasting far into the night, and celebrate their deliverance by the grace of God.

"But the pastor returns to his study, still troubled. An angel appears to him and asks what's the problem. 'I still don't feel right about turning over the fugitive,' the pastor says. The angel replies, 'Did you know that he was the Messiah?'

"The pastor is incredulous. 'How was I to know?' he asks. 'If, instead of reading your Bible,' the angel replies, 'you had taken time to visit the young man and looking into his eyes, you would have known he was the Messiah.'

"When we separate the scriptures from history, we are in trouble. When we separate the scriptures from real life, we distort the scriptures. When we separate the scriptures from the people out of whom the scriptures were written, we misinterpret the scriptures.

"The Lord entered history. And ever after, history and the flesh are where we encounter the Lord, rather than running from life and history into principles, theories, and the too-quick answers that put us back in control."