Friday, June 17, 2016

The Long Silence

At the end of time, billions of people were seated 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 cringing with shame, but with belligerence.

"Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?"
snapped a bold young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror ... beatings ... torture ... death!"

In another group a boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched, for no crime but being black!"

In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: "Why should I suffer?" she murmured. "It wasn't my fault." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world.

How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light! Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that people have been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.

So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a slave, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, an abused child. In the center of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.

Before God could 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.

Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.

Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.

At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.

As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.

For suddenly, all knew that God had already served His sentence.

Source Notes: This anonymous story first appeared on college campuses in the late 1970s. It had the excellent effect of promoting serious thought and honest discussions about God and ultimate justice, final judgment, theodicy, and the existence of evil and suffering in the world.

It has since been made into a small play or playlet by John McNeil, which expands on details regarding the sufferers to provide more examples and parts: The Long Silence playlet

It has also been made into a powerful 3-minute video with a gifted British narrator:  The Long Silence video


  1. An anonymous story, but surely inspired by the same God who inspired the Gospel by coming down to earth and becoming human. Thank you for this modern-day exhalation of the Spirit, Allacin!

    Peter Jansen
    Clarkson, ON Canada

  2. Well said, Peter! It was a distinct privilege to present this gem from God to challenge minds afresh.