When the Good Guys Don’t Win

We like it when the good guys win in our entertainment. If they lose, like in Avengers 3, there’d better be an Avengers 4 where they reverse the defeat. Well, we all know real life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes it’s really depressing when the ones we’re rooting for don’t win. In those cases, we need to remember that God sovereignly planned that outcome and will work it for good. Here are some case studies.

I’m going to start with some real controversy here. I have no doubts the “good guys” lost the American Revolution. I mean, is there any other way to see it from a Christian perspective? Jesus and Paul unequivocally instructed their followers in the Roman Empire to pay some of the most corruptly levied taxes in history, on which they had no say whatsoever, to support government’s legitimate God-given task of maintaining law and order. I dread to think what they’ll say to Sons of Liberty who were essentially willing to kill people to evade a few dollars of tax to be spent on their own defense. Lord willing, I’ll explore this and other myths of the American Revolution in a later post.

But, anyone familiar with American history knows God worked marvelous good out of the lawlessness. Starting from a tradition of English liberties, the Framers of the Constitution set out to build a government that got right what every other government had gotten wrong. They succeeded in creating the best-designed government the world has ever seen. Though the U.S. was not always in the right during its expansionist phase, it built a mighty nation that toppled the greatest tyrannies the world has ever seen. And, even with its flaws, the Framers built in a system to correct the government system as the nation developed.

Or consider the even bloodier Punic Wars of the third century BC between Rome and Carthage. Now, no one would argue that the Carthaginians were a righteous nation, but they have my sympathies here. Rome displayed raw aggression towards them. The Second Punic War started when Hannibal wanted to get back at Rome for violating a peace treaty to seize Corsica and Sardinia from Carthage and demand an indemnity to boot. The Third Punic War ended with Rome wiping Carthage, now no more than a city-state, off the map because it was still a successful commercial rival. In fact, one of the reasons Hannibal lost the Second Punic War despite his genius was that he, in Carthaginian fashion, fought just to redress the balance of power and clip Rome’s wings while Rome played for keeps. That’s one reason I find Augustine’s just war theory hopelessly naïve. His position that the offended nation can only fight for status quo ante bellumseems selfless and righteous, but how many tyrants would that really stop? They’d catch their breath, cheat during the peace, and come back for round two. Besides, it’s not the way Old Testament Israel fought their wars. But I digress…

Anyway, there’s no question Rome wound up having a better impact on world history than Carthage would have. Rome had the tenacity and know-how to build an infrastructure to promote cities that God used to grow his Church. They established a peace around the Mediterranean in which the Church flourished.

1066 is known as a turning point in English history. Although most agree that the long-term effect was beneficial, many would posit that the good guys lost. I personally think that Harold violated his oath and gave William the Conqueror a casus belli, but it’s easy to sympathize with the Anglo-Saxons, particularly when one considers how brutal the Normans got in their attempt at subjugation. Assuming for the sake of argument that Harold and his men who were wiped out at Hastings were the good guys, did God use their disaster to further good purposes?

Absolutely! Without the Norman Conquest, it’s conceivable there’d be no such thing as democracy in the world today, or at least not of the kind we’re used to. Before the Conquest England was a backwards extension of Scandinavia subject to invasions and raids. The Normans built it up into a great power that could play with the big boys. Meanwhile, they developed the beginnings of the English constitutional government that inspired so many democracies around the world. Magna Carta can be interpreted as Anglo-Norman barons forcing the king to in writing commit to the mutual obligations of the feudal system they had brought over from Normandy.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians, who worship a leader who was tortured and executed in the most loathsome way possible despite His perfect innocence. Indeed, if God hadn’t willed that, none of us would have hope. So, even when the Thanos’es win, we can be sure it’s because God ordained it as part of His will for good. Anything He permits, He will work out for the best possible end.