Monday, March 14, 2011
If God Is Good, How Could This Happen?
I wanted to start this blog with a video by Ravi Zacharias because, in my experience, nobody answers it better than he does. I'm writing this because of the state of our world. On the one hand, today there are new reports of explosions at one of the nuclear plants in Japan, which is still reeling from the after-effects of a massive earthquake and tsunami. On the other hand we have, in effect, a civil war in Libya and civil unrest throughout the Middle-East. We add to this the continuing challenges to our world of HIV/AIDs, starvation, environmental issues and economic concerns and it's little wonder that some ask the question, "if God is good, how could this happen?"
The problem of evil has long been a sticking point for people as they try to understand God. I believe that Ravi handled it much better than I ever could, so I'd like to move on to the follow-up - what is God's answer to evil?
When Jesus walked this planet He said very clearly in John 16:33 - "In this world you will have trouble." We live in a fallen creation, this world is not the "good" world that God originally created. As the guardians of this planet, our mismanagement and rebellion has brought about devastation. That was a result of our choice and our choices. There is a villain in the story who was given entrance through that very first disobedience. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Jesus here was pointing to a spiritual reality with physical manifestations. We see effects like family breakdown, alcohol and drug addiction, child abuse and other social ills and we ask the question, where is God in all of our human suffering? The answer to the question is found first in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks of Him as "God in the flesh." As John 1 tells us, He who spoke the world into being, became one of us and lived among us.
For those who say that God does not understand, read the Gospels. Jesus was born to a mother in a socially awkward position, and lived the first few years of his life as a refugee. He suffered with his nation under the iron fist of Rome. He was raised in obscurity, shunned by the "powers that be." When he entered public life he was ridiculed by the religious and political leaders of his time, often because he identified with social outcasts. Though popular for a time, the tide of opinion turned against him when he refused to opt for a military or political solution, yet was seen as a threat to leaders.
He suffered the betrayal of close friends, the hurt of false accusations, the shame of a public trial, flogging, beatings and cruel torture. He then faced the humiliation of a crucifixion, designed to strip the victim of the last vestige of human dignity. He did this while having the power at any time to save himself.
In God's plan, Jesus had to feel the full weight of human pain. As Hebrews 4:15 tells us, he dealt with all that we have to face, yet without sin. He also bore the weight of all of our sin. Not only did he suffer with and for the innocent, but also the guilty, that all can be reconciled to God. Where is God when we suffer - suffering with us? This ought to be seen through his church, as we follow in his steps.
From the very beginning it has been God's desire that His people would model what it means to truly be human. When Jesus announced his ministry, he declared that he had come to "preach good news to the poor... to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:17-21) He was speaking of the establishment of His Kingdom - the renewal of Creation as it was intended to be. Everywhere his people go they are to continue this process - not by force or compulsion, but through serving. I recognize that there is both a present and a future fulfilment to these verses, but for now let's deal with the present.
The early church, at least at times, followed the example of their founder. In Acts we find that those who were wealthy shared with the poor so that none lacked. When Roman women would leave their unwanted babies by open sewers to die of exposure, Christians would take them in and raise them as their own. When epidemics would sweep through towns and villages and the healthy would leave, Christians would stay and care for the sick and dying. They fed the hungry, cared for widows and orphans and accepted outcasts into community. In so doing they changed society.
God's call to us has not changed. Jesus said that "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."(Matthew 25:45) So, when the question is asked, where is God in all of this that is happening around us, perhaps the question ought to be, what are we doing about it? What ought to be our approach to a world in trouble? In Matthew 7:12 Jesus said, "do to others what you would have them do to you." It was good advice then, and it's just as relevant today. What has God blessed you with? How can you use those resources to best help those who are hurting and in need? Now go do the right thing.
Articles of Interest:
The 'A' Word
Are You Listening?