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The Parable of the Resistance Leader

Is it rational to trust God even when we do not fully understand what he is doing? One of the most illuminating answers was put forward by the Oxford philosopher Basil Mitchell in his celebrated parable of the resistance leader.

Imagine you are in German-occupied France during World War II and you want to join the resistance movement against the Nazis. One evening in the local bar a stranger comes up to you and introduces himself as the leader of the local partisans. He spends the evening with you, explaining the general requirements of your duties, giving you a chance to assess his trustworthiness, and offering you the chance to go no further. But his warning is stern: If you join, your life will be at risk. This will be the only face-to-face meeting you will have. After this, you will receive orders and you will have to follow them without question, often completely in the dark as to the whys and wherefores of the operations, and always with the terrifying fear that your trust may be betrayed.

Is such trust reasonable? Sometimes what the resistance leader is doing is obvious. He is helping members of the resistance. "Thank heavens he is on our side," you say. Sometimes it is not obvious. He is in Gestapo uniform arresting partisans and—unknown to you—releasing them out of sight to help them escape the Nazis. But always you must trust and follow the orders without question, despite all appearances, no matter what happens. "The resistance leader knows best," you say. Only after the war will the secrets be open, the codes revealed, the true comrades vindicated, the traitors exposed, and sense made of the explanations.

Possible Preaching Angles: Os Guinness adds, "The parable of the resistance leader is an apt picture of the … dilemmas of faith in a fallen world ….. Evil is not a problem because God is too small, though doing his best, but because God is so great that we cannot be expected to know what he is doing." The parable explores if we have good enough reasons to trust the resistance leader. Christians can look at Jesus and say, "Father, I don't understand everything that you're doing, but I trust that you are good and that you're on my side."

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