Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Natural Suffering

If God is good and all-powerful, He wouldn’t allow suffering. That’s what many people think, especially during this season of Covid-19. People wonder how God could allow this, or things like earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes, to ravage our world. Others wonder why He sent this into the world. We may never know if this is an attack by Satan or a test from God, but that should not change our response to this pandemic or any trial. It also doesn’t need to threaten our faith.
This is not the first time the world has seen something like Covid-19. It is important to understand that a pandemic happens about every century. The Spanish Flu was almost exactly 100 years ago in 1918 and killed 40-50 million. In 1885, the Third Plaque killed 12 million. A Cholera outbreak in 1717 killed about 1 million. The Italian Plaque killed 1 million in 1629. In 1520, Smallpox killed 56 million. And the most famous of them all, the Black Plaque of 1347 killed 200 million. (Stats from the Visual Capitalist). Keep in mind that as you go back in time, the population of the world gets smaller.

We live in a broken world. Disease and death result from living in this sinful condition. Jesus came to save us from the ultimate consequences of that condition, but not to remove all traces of the taint of sin from our lives in this life.

Many see the sickness and death around us wonder how an all-loving God could allow such a thing. Or they may decide God is not powerful enough to stop Covid (the Spanish Flu, the Plaque, earthquakes, etc). Satan tries to get Christians to think if they have faith then things like Covid will not touch them or their families. Then when trouble comes, and it will, doubt comes along with it. Satan uses this doubt to turn many away from God, or to drive a wedge between them and God to start pushing them away from Him. He wants you to be angry at God for this disease when the real source of the problem is Satan himself. If not for sin, death and disease would not be a problem. And we know who helped get sin into this creation.

Satan also wants us to think this pain and suffering is pointless. That is far from the truth. Times like these force us to realize we are not as powerful or as in control as we foolishly thought we were. It should drive us toward God to seek the peace that only He can offer through any trial. These difficult times force us to choose. Will our faith grow stronger or will we start turning from that faith? Trials force change. Change can be good. Stagnation is never good.

What is the source of these plaques? We do not know for sure, but we see in the book of Job that Satan had power over a storm, lightning, strong winds, and groups of people to cause all these to do his bidding. Satan has power in this world, and he will use that power to cause chaos and destruction. God is not the only one who has the power to cause things like these, but He is typically the one everyone blames.

Mankind may also be to blame for some of the natural suffering we endure. We have messed up the environment. We have killed off animal species. We chose to live in areas of the world that are clearly unsafe. Science has reached into areas we do not fully understand, causing undesired results or fallout. We eat foods that God did not declare to be food. We live in ways He explicitly told us are not healthy. There are frequently negative consequences from doing these things.

Like Job, we can question God, but also like Job, God may very well put us in our place and show us how ignorant we were in doing so. He may even show you how you (or we) were to blame, and we falsely accused God.

For me, I’ll have faith that no matter the source of this current trial, or future ones, that God can make good result from it, and I’ll look for how I can play a part in the good that is occurring.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

Monday, March 30, 2020

Why Evil?

Why does God allow evil? That is likely the most common reason people have for rejecting God. They look around the world and recognize it is messed up. People do horrible things to each other, so they reasonably ask themselves, “If God is all-loving and all-powerful, how can there be evil?

The answer to this problem is found in 2 Peter 3:9: The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. It is God’s desire that all people come to repentance, which is a churchy way of saying He wants everyone to stop doing bad things and seek Him instead. Obviously, everyone is not doing that. If it is God’s will that this happen but it is not happening, what does that mean? It means we can choose if we will turn to Him or try to find our own way through life. In other words, we have freewill. We can make our own decisions and those lead us closer to or further away from God.

Something closely tied to the concept of freewill is that God wants us to choose to love Him. Without freewill we would have no say in the matter. If God forced us to love Him, that would be no different from rape. He would be forcing His will on us against what our own will would had been if He had allowed us to have our own will. It would be brainwashing at the deepest level. Even though it would be for our own good, it would still be forced upon us.

Therefore, God must allow freewill so we can choose to love Him. However, the cost is that people can make horrible decisions which have devastating effects on others. Could God step in and stop those actions? Yes, but actions are not the only thing God views as evil. Jesus told us in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” So, for God to stop evil, He would have to stop us from thinking evil. This gets us right back to having freewill. If God controlled our thoughts, we would not have freewill.

In summary, the reason evil exists is the same reason there is love: freewill. God allows us to choose to follow Him or our own desires. The fruit of those choices are love and evil. So, for there to be no evil, there would also be no love. That is too high a price to pay. Therefore, God chose to send Jesus to pay the price for evil so we could experience the gift of love.

[Nothing here is original except for the packaging of these concepts. I formed my thoughts about this question from the Bible, and other authors such as C. S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, N.T. Wright, and William Lane Craig.]

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Golden Rule

I am sure you have heard the Golden Rule from Luke 6:31-32, which says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (NIV) Perhaps you have heard it stated like this, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is straight from Jesus and a good rule to live by.

Christianity is not the only religion to have a rule like this. Confucianism has what is called the Silver Rule: ‘What you do not wish done to you, do not do to others.’ This is basically the Golden Rule stated in the negative form.

The Golden Rule works very well if used correctly. However, it is very easy to apply this in the wrong way. I know I have. How could you apply such a wonderful concept incorrectly? Actually, it is quite easy if you do not consider the context of the rule.

The verses immediately preceding the Golden Rule say:
27…Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. (Luke 6:27-30 HCSB)

The context of the section containing the Golden Rule is all about doing what is best for someone else even if it is difficult. The rule is about doing the right thing. It is important to note that the right thing may not be the first thing that comes to mind. To apply the Golden Rule correctly, you have to understand the needs of the other person.

I often phrase the rule this way to myself, “Treat others as you would want to be treated if you were in their exact situation.” One problem I have in doing this is seeing things from someone else’s perspective, but you absolutely have to do that to live out this rule. Without understanding the needs and backgrounds of the people you are trying to help, you could harm them.

An extreme example may illustrate this point. Say you are walking in the woods one day and hear splashing and screaming. You run through the trees to see someone splashing in a lake who is tangled up in rope. You were already thirsty before hearing the screams. The run to the lake made your throat feel like sandpaper. You could apply “do unto others as you would have them do to you” literally. You might think, I am very thirsty, and I would really like a drink of water from this jug of mine. Therefore, I will toss my jug to that drowning man so he can have a drink of refreshing water. I am really sacrificing here. I am such an awesome Christian.

That is obviously an absurd example, but it clearly shows what misapplying this rule can lead to hurting someone when you intended to help. Unfortunately, this happens frequently.

I am by no means saying that you should not try to apply the Golden Rule as much as possible. You simply need to give some thought as to how you wish to help someone before you do it.