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Archive for July, 2011

An Answer To God, Evil And Suffering?

Certain answers about God’s role during suffering can alienate or draw us closer to the great Comforter. It is suggested it cannot be understood how an all powerful, caring God can co-exist with evil and suffering. It is a mystery! This makes God more incomprehensible when in fact God came in the flesh so we might better understand Him. Questions dismissed as unanswerable may be answerable. It may be suggested to simply trust God. It is defiant to think we know better than the Creator of the Universe what is best, but I suspect God does not mind being questioned and like a loving parent may think “please just don’t ignore me for your own good.”

Many find it easier to accept or understand evil and suffering that comes through immoral choices. C.S Lewis suggested that wars, crimes, and injustices – evils that come through bad choices make by cruel and lawless people – account for at least 80% of humankind suffering. The reality is that much of suffering is either self-inflicted or inflicted by others. This includes accidents caused by drinking and driving and maybe even some natural disasters indirectly.  It has been said in Haiti that when tectonic plates under the earth collided, atop them was a densely populated, poorly constructed city in a country which had been badly governed for centuries. Was good housing not possible partly because of social injustices?

The truth is God is a tremendous respecter of freedom and willingly gave up control for the sake of freedom. The potential for evil exists because God created humans with freedom of choice, but we humans choose to hate or do good. God is not responsible for choices His children make any more than human parents are responsible for the decisions of their offspring. God’s risk for intimacy is no more insane than a parent who chooses to have a child born in an already corrupt world where freedoms exist. God and human parents can attest that love without true freedom is neither authentic nor desirable. God never forces Himself on others; not even God can force someone to love Him. Evil is not some grand scheme by God!

Personal tragedies do not seem to always have a direct cause, such as a rider suffering a paralyzing fall from their horse. Recently, my wife suffered a terrible bicycling accident. She was being safe but an animal darted out in front of her. The brakes were tighter than they should have been and caused her to flip over the front of her bike. She shattered her elbow and her mouth took the blunt of the fall. Fortunately, medical personnel were quick to the scene and surgeries have begun the healing process. I could ask “God, why didn’t You change Janet’s mind to ask me to ride that morning or help me to notice the brake situation.” Whose freedom is violated? Are there far-sighted reasons for God to not always intervene with personal tragedies?

Why doesn’t God intervene more? There seems to be so much more evil, suffering, and personal tragedies because of lack of God’s interference. God certainly intervenes miraculously sometimes or one’s peaceful reaction to suffering is a miracle, but it is fair to say God doesn’t intervene miraculously most of the time. We must ask though if miracles and God’s constant intervention makes for a better world in the long-run? If God only interfered some of the times and not all the time, wouldn’t we still ask why God doesn’t interfere in certain instances?

The truth is instant healing or richness only leaves us wanting to be healthier or richer. Many will agree suffering rather than prosperity is what changed them for the better. Total dependence on God than ourselves or circumstances can be in our best interest in the long-run. Should have God interfered with Jesus’ suffering? God’s constant interference would make a mockery out of freedom. Relationships without true freedom are neither authentic nor desirable. If God did not create freedom, we would simply accuse Him of creating robots. It is true God ultimately allows evil for He created the potential for evil by creating humans with the freedom to love or hate. But, not even God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be genuine free will.

God changes individuals and the world through their own volition, just as parents attempt to persuade their children to choose to reciprocate their love for their own benefit. Suffering had to become a part of God’s story if He was to allow freedom. What is more evil than torturing and killing millions of people simply because of their nationality? What is more horrific than an adult sexually abusing a young child for years, threatening them if they tell anyone of their dirty little secret? Evil is evil regardless of the magnitude or how many humans are impacted. There would be no freedom if God intervened according to His or even our own standards. Justice delayed does not mean justice is not served. The Flood proved evil just grows back when destroying evil and starting over. God’s ultimate response to evil is the slow, necessary way of the Incarnation. Jesus’ life and death was an attempt to persuade and empower others to love as Jesus did.

It is not always wise to prevent our children from suffering consequences, whether self-inflicted or the result of a fallen world. Suffering enables us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers.  We look to God more often during adversity than prosperity.  Jesus’ sufferings than miracles is what really changed hearts. Our sufferings than healings can do the same in the lives of others. Personal tragedies or undeserved suffering can make us more sensitive to others and enable us to be trusted because we have “walked in their shoes.” We can trust Jesus because He has faced and conquered all the adversities we face. God allows suffering as a megaphone to distract us from our own selfishness. God allows suffering as a megaphone to enable us to better serve others. 

Must We Obey To Be Loved By God?

Our obedience has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love for us. Not even earthly parents stop loving their children just because they are disobedient. God is not a conditional lover – loving us only if we obey. We do not have to worry to obey God a certain amount to have or maintain our salvation. We are saved when we decide to continually believe and trust in God to the best of our ability.  Pagans are the ones who should worry about obedience for their own good, but they want nothing to do with their Creator. God certainly grieves selfish choices because of the pain it will bring to His children, but He doesn’t stop loving us.

It is imperative to understand God’s unconditional love.  Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for their misguided emphasis on rules and obedience rather than a relationship and God’s unconditional love. Perhaps Jesus understood the Pharisees were only serving themselves for status reasons in society. God’s love and His mercy is our necessary nourishment. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can conquer our battle against self-centeredness. We can start each day feeling accepted rather than rejected. God knew we would always be frustrated thinking our efforts will never be enough. We aren’t capable of meeting even our own standards. When we understand how much God loves and values us, we will be more empowered to live selflessly.

Fear is for babies and evil folks. Hell was not used to scare into Heaven those seeking God. Jesus warned the consequence for those hell-bent on evil is destruction in the end. Fear often leads to temporary change to not get caught, not lifelong transformation. Fear doesn’t lead to reflections how to better ourselves. Fear and obligatory love never lead to an intimate relationship in human or spiritual relationships, which truly empower us to be the kind of person we desire to be. God’s unconditional love provides comfort to those whose failures afflict their consciences. We do not have to continually despair over past or present failures. We hate ourselves for not being holier; we do not need to heap God’s hate on ourselves as well 

God does not seem concerned that we will use His grace as a license to sin, as the consequence of sin is punishment enough. Our own guilt robs us of God’s assurance and love for us. Understanding God’s grace causes one to sin less not more. God’s grace continually inspires one to not want to disappoint, just as we do not wish to let down a partner, parent, or boss we respect deeply. God loves our good works, but He does not see works as a way to justify His love for us. Works are not so that God can love us but for our own good as they have intrinsic blessings. A person who tells the truth does not fear being caught and leaves a legacy for others to follow. The wicked must live in fear and die in vain.

A Christian’s desire and the desire of our Creator is holiness. We want so much to love God as He loves us and to love others as we wish to be loved. What leads to such obedience? Fear of rejection doesn’t lead to obedience. Understanding God’s unconditional love for us inspires to love Him back.  You don’t have to obey to be loved, but knowing how much God loves us can motivate to love Him back. To love God is to love ourselves and others. God is always waiting with open, loving arms for those who desire to be loved and encouraged.

Must We Believe In Absolutes?

God sometimes gets a bad rap about rules in the Old Testament, but God’s laws were purposeful and always for one’s good. A child will say the same about an unselfish parent’s rules as they mature. We must be sensitive what we claim to be absolutes from God’s perspective. Does the Bible really teach women cannot be pastors? Does the Bible really teach God tortures forever those who do not desire to live with Him forever after death? God forbid one seeker is driven to despair or unbelief because of disputable images of God. 

Our vocabulary suggests unbelief in absolutes is impossible. To use the word “tragedy” suggests there is some standard of good or bad. Parenting is impossible without believing some actions are right and other actions are wrong. Who wants to be around children that have no sense of morality? A family or society without shame is chaos.

It is an absolute that there is a Creator or there isn’t a Creator, so Christians and Atheists stand together. Personally, I prefer whoever is making the absolutes have a complete understanding of how things are. The Judge must be PERFECT and not just stating an opinion.  No absolutes aren’t much of an option logically or relationally. There is no basis for moral duty, no right for justice, my actions don’t count, I don’t count. Absolutes absolutely but whose?

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