Why do appalling things happen? It’s a question we all want answered. For the professing Christian who says that God not only exists, but that he is compassionate and all-powerful, it is one of life’s toughest questions. Why doesn’t God step in and do something to relieve the suffering and pain, and clean up the mess? I have to say, there are no complete answers.
What then can we say about this profound and perplexing subject? Today and next Wednesday I will briefly touch on a number of points.
Our cry for justice…! All of us have within us a sense of right and wrong. This suggests that we live in a universe that has meaning and is moral. If we lived in a world that had come into existence simply by the process of spontaneous change, logically we would be nothing but particles, bumping around in some sort of meaningful connection. Our conscious state would be nothing more than electrical discharges in the human brain.
Now it seems to me that it’s very difficult to be morally indignant about behavior that results from quarks smashing together. Consequently the issues of evil and suffering and the cry for justice lose their relevance in a purely evolutionary framework.
Our cry for justice is much more in line with the Bible’s teaching that it is right to condemn all wicked violence, all taking of innocent life. For the Bible condemns such activities whether in ourselves or in others, and we condemn the perpetrators of these deeds. The Bible helps us to know evil when we see it.
So will justice ever occur? If we agree that we live in a moral universe, the picture the Bible paints makes a lot of sense and is very satisfying. Winston Churchill once said that there had to be a hell, to bring the likes of Lenin and Trotsky and Hitler to justice. The good news is that one day God will call everyone to account.
And here there is a sting in the tail. If we want justice to be done to others, we must agree that we too need to be brought to account. Yes, we long for justice and vindication, but we, too, are guilty before God.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote:
‘If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?’
The roots of evil are intertwined amongst all humanity, including us. God’s judgment is just and will be without discrimination. Of this we may be very sure. We need not despair that sin will go unpunished. But we also will need to be prepared.
So, why doesn’t God step in now? The Bible answers by telling us that God stays his hand for the present because he wants to give all men and women the opportunity to turn to him in repentance. The good news is that God will vindicate us when we turn to Jesus Christ. His judgment may be slow as we count time, but it is very sure (2 Peter 3:9-13).
Here we see the passion of God’s love and our ultimate hope. We have this because of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross of Jesus comes between God’s good creation, ruined by human sin with which the Bible begins, and the promise of a restored creation with which the Bible ends.
‘God will wipe away every tear from our eyes… there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ (Revelation 21:4).