How is it that a world can be as polluted as this? I don’t mean Earth, the atmosphere, the litter on the street. I don’t mean the oceans. How can a world be so full of pain and suffering? Evil is a problem here. Everyone readily admits that. But we don’t know evil is a problem in our own hearts.
Most of us think evil is something outside of us. But when evil is done to us, and we hurt, we find that capacity for evil in ourselves. That temptation to stop caring and trusting. It is a choice. The same sun that melts the wax also hardens the clay. The sun is the same, and not partial, and doesn’t treat the wax and clay differently. But the substance of the wax and the clay are different.
We are that way with adversity. We choose whether to bend and absorb and carry on despite it, or we choose to harden, nursing the indignation and anger like a newborn baby that can’t fend for itself. When we choose not to forgive, we bring condemnation upon our own selves.
Life can feel like a series of blows. But it is relative. I can be thankful I was not a Jew in the holocaust, thrown into a cattle car, starved and left for dead. I can be thankful I wasn’t born in North Korea. But all the worse suffering elsewhere, doesn’t actually diminish the pain I feel. The key is thankfulness for what is good in your life, and acknowledging where all that is good comes from.
Every person who ever lived has asked God “why?” at some point. If you haven’t yet, you will. It is true that when we excuse and try to justify the behavior of someone who commits an evil act because of their upbringing of negligence or abuse, it turns into a road with no end, and no place to aim our rage.
Our innate sense of justice tells us that there’s more to it than that, but what is it?
We know that there is right and there is wrong, because God created us in His image, and He is a just God. We may misconstrue what is holy and what is evil, what is profane and what is sacred, but none of us can claim to be unaware of those basic concepts.
Why does God let the evil continue? Why does He not step in. Sometimes He does, but not nearly as often as we think He should.
If I am a doctor, and there are people in my city dying of a plague of some sort, while others that I have treated are making full recoveries, am I responsible for those others who are dying? How can I save the ones who will not come to me?
God keeps 24/7 office hours. He is everywhere at once. There is no barrier between us and God and the remedy He has for us, except our failure to go to Him to get it. We can never accuse God of being unfair, quite simply because what God requires from us, God provides for us.
He wants everyone to have that opportunity for that “cure”. He could end it all today, and go ahead and mete out judgment and justice. That rapist, that serial killer, that despot leader, would finally get what is coming to them. But what about the good neighbor who would give the shirt off his back, but who once took a man’s life when he was a hot-headed angry kid? No one even knows about his past, everyone that knows him now, would say he is as kind-hearted as anyone they know, but God does know about the past. The man spent his entire life trying to atone for his deed. But the truth is, no amount of good can make him not a murderer. There must be a penalty for murder, and no judge in any courtroom is going to weigh the perpetrator’s good traits and good deeds to see if they “weigh more” than the murder, thus exonerating the man. That would not be just. Unless the man literally could bring the dead to life, there is no price that can be paid to atone for taking the life of another. No one can bring someone else to life by taking their place in death. But God can. Because He has authority and power over life and death. And that is just what God did.
God does love that neighbor. What’s even harder to fathom is that He also loves the rapist and serial killer and despot. God knows what they did, and God would love to be able to let them “off the hook” but He would be excusing and justifying their sins and that would be evil on His part. God is Holy and incapable of doing wrong. He is just and incapable of excusing sin. To us, sins are “big” and “little”, or “bad” and “worse”. God makes no such distinctions. God can’t let a murderer off with his crime because then where would be the justice for the one whose life was snuffed out! Where would be the justice for the loved ones who lost him?
God’s nature is love. He loves the murderer. That doesn’t set well with the non-murderers of this world. We want justice. While at the same time, we want God to overlook our wrongs. We compare our wrongs to the murderer’s and we think, “I’m not so bad”. But God doesn’t see sin as a spectrum. God’s measure of holiness is like our concept of sterility. So that even the smallest infraction renders a record imperfect. We all have a rap sheet. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
He loves the hurting, but he also loves the murderer. That is so hard to accept. We in our nature, feel nothing but hatred for the one who causes so much pain.
There is a story in the Bible about two sisters and their brother, who were very close to Jesus during H is life. Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Lazarus became sick one time when Jesus was away, and the sisters sent for Jesus to come back and heal him. They’d seen Jesus heal many others by then. But Jesus didn’t get in a hurry. He tarried where He was, finished His business there, and came a couple of days later. The sisters were inconsolable, and they asked Jesus the obvious question, “why?”. Why didn’t you come sooner? You could have saved him!
And Jesus wept! Why? Why did Jesus weep when Lazarus was dead, since He had the power to raise Lazarus up from the dead, and knew that He was going to do just that?
The scriptures say Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. It says that we don’t have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our infirmities. Sorrow is an infirmity. Sickness, loss, everything in this life that causes human suffering, falls into that category. Jesus cried because people He cared about were hurting. And maybe because He knows that it is the state of sinfulness that caused the curse of death and sickness to come into creation to begin with. We were created for beauty and life and joy, not for death and sickness and suffering.
God sent Jesus, and Jesus willingly came, to take our sin into His own body and defeat death on the cross of Calvary by dying, and rising up again in life. The Bible says Jesus “became sin for us”. Think about your fictional superheros. The Iron Giant who intercepted the missile and saved the town, but was blown to bits in the process. Jesus took the sickness and death of sin, your sin, my sin, the murderer’s sin, into His own body, by some mystical process beyond our comprehension, and it was killed in Him when the Roman guards hung Him on the cross and He gave up His life willingly, because unlike us, He had the power to take His life up again afterward. He did it that whosoever is willing to have that atonement applied to their own sin, can be made innocent with the perfectly clean record of Christ Himself, because their sins have already been paid for, their sentence has already been served, by One who never had a single sin of His own to atone for. The wages of sin is death. He “took the bullet” for us, and offers us a “get out of hell” option, if we are willing to take it. But so many aren’t willing to take it.
Why does God stand by and let evil continue? Because He is love. Love is His nature. As only the mother of a psychopath can love her son after he has done such horrible things, God loves and wants to redeem all who are willing to own up to their guilt and receive that act of Christ on their behalf. It means admitting that God is, and that God as the Creator of all, has every right to judge and punish. It means admitting we have violated His standard of law, and have coming to us, a penalty, and humbling ourselves enough to receive such a gift of pardon.
I am not a murderer or rapist, terrorist or torturer. Most likely you who are reading this aren’t either. But we live in a world that has so rejected the authority of God that there are many who don’t even know what Jesus did and what God offers through Christ. Many don’t give much, if any, thought to that.
But let your child be the one murdered, let you be the one who is raped, or maimed in an accident with a drunk driver, and you soon find a new interest in justice and punishment, and a new willingness to entertain the notion that there really is a hell.And maybe that is one reason for the bad things God allows to happen to otherwise “good” people (by human standards). Because we think we are good, when we are not. We hope that we will go to heaven when we die, and hope that there is a heaven, but we don’t know the way there. Unless God tells us. And that is the purpose of the Bible.
I feel the hurt in this world. Not just my own wounds and scars, but I feel the suffering of others. Many people have that empathy. Yet daily it seems that number who cares about their fellow man is shrinking. There’s a lot of lip-service to that effect, but those who would lay down their life for a stranger are getting pretty rare. The Bible tells us that would happen. That mankind’s natural affection and compassion for one another would grow cold. The Bible tells us a lot of things that are good to know because they explain ourselves, to ourselves. People don’t like to read the Bible because while they are reading the Bible, the Bible is reading them right back. And they sense it. They feel themselves being examined, and don’t like how they measure up, so they get mad at the “scale” or the “ruler” and irrationally believe that if they just get rid of the scale, or ruler, or mirror, then they will not be found wanting. What a childish belief!
It’s a good thing I am not God. He restrains His anger, and the scriptures do say He is angry at the wicked every day, and that they store up wrath against themselves. I’d go around zapping all the “bad people” if I were God. But see, that’s the thing. God doesn’t want to see us destroyed. He wants to make us new creatures altogether. The Bible is history of God’s interaction with man, particularly through the line of Abraham, and on down to David, by which line the Christ came onto the stage of human events. Not marked by fanfare and royal processions, but as a lowly innocent helpless baby.
He is coming again some day, and when He does, it will be in majesty and power. In His glory, in His physical presence no one can remain on their feet. Mere humans are rendered prone before Him. And every knee will bow. Not because He aspires to be over all, but because HE IS OVER ALL. There is none greater than God. There is none more powerful, more wise, more kind, more compassionate, nor more perfectly just and Holy. He will set things in order. And those who have wished for Justice will learn that they themselves are on the wrong side of the law.
Those who reject Him and claim not to believe He exists, and claim there is no hell, will become believers when they see Him. But it will be too late then to yield their will and their life to Him. Their destiny will already be sealed.
There is no answer to mans problems in “religion”. Religion is man’s attempt to raise himself up. God says our righteousness is as filthy rags. Crawl on your knees to Mecca, life a life of solitude and silence in a Tibetan monastery, those things seem noble, but they do nothing to address the problem of sin which keeps us separated from the source of all life. See, that’s what death is. It is not a “thing” it is the absence of something. And that something has only one source. God Almighty! So all the theories that man has come up with in his self-confidence, are useless in the face of Truth. Truth is the only thing that can set you free. Every religion is just another counterfeit offering a false hope. Jesus Himself said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me. History proves Jesus lived, you don’t need the Bible for that. The record of His death and resurrection are a matter of historical record. So the one question remains, what will you do about this Jesus? Was He a lunatic? Was He a liar? Or was and is He Whom He claimed to be? Very God in flesh. Emmanuel, God with us? What you choose to believe about that is the singular most important question you will ever be confronted with.
Next entry: Doing Without