Response to Evil
In my previous post, I looked at the problem with evil, namely that the Bible doesn’t support many of our assumptions about it. To quote a wise man, “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.” That’s not an easy truth to accept. When I see children maimed in war, good people killed in horrible ways, and unborn babies dying before they come into the world, I want to believe God has nothing to do with this. I need to believe it!
But that’s not the truth. I have (generally) come to accept that God’s wisdom is beyond my understanding. I don’t like many of the things he allows to happen in the world. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t him. I trust that he has a purpose, even when I can’t imagine what that purpose is.
As I wrote previously, my wife miscarried what would have been my first child. And it happened as we went to the doctor expecting to hear a heartbeat, but there was no heartbeat. It wasn’t just the loss, it was the cruelty of the dashed hopes that angered me. I raged. Yet that experience forced me to acknowledge that God, whom I had rejected, was indeed active in the world. It was the beginning of my coming to faith.
I do not believe that God killed our baby so that I would become Christian. That’s far too small a way of looking at it. Similarly, when I had the vision in the war zone that included the realization that “If there was no war, there would be no peacemakers; blessed are the peacemakers,” I could not conclude that God allowed war for the purpose of calling us to be peacemakers. His plan is far greater than that.
But there is some truth in those assessments, limited as they are.
I’ve written about the paradox of free will. Yes, we have to believe we have it. Yet if God wants us to go to Ninevah, we’re probably going to end up in Ninevah.
But if God has that kind of power, why does he use catastrophes to get our attention? Why doesn;t he implement social justice throughput the world?
The answer is remarkably simple: God wants us to love. Love is a choice. Love forced is not love at all. He doesn’t force us to love him, but he sometimes does use some forceful convincing. And he doesn’t force us to love each other, but he does push us in that direction.
The metaphor of God the Father is important. Sooner or later, a father helps his children learn to do for themselves. You made a mess? You clean it up. You’re old enough that I’m not going to do it for you.
Yes, God could change the world. But he wants us to learn to do it.
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these… (John 14:12)
We have a sinful nature (Romans 3:19-20). We also long for God (Psalm 62:1). Which will we choose?
Left to our own devices, we too often choose the former. We see and act for our own gain, not God’s. We meet disagreement with scorn and hatred. We meet perceived injustice with retribution and violence. And those whom we meet in these ways react in the same way, perpetuating the cycle.
When I saw the horrors war had inflicted on innocent civilians, I wanted to kill someone. When my wife lost our baby, I needed to blame someone, and I raged at God.
But I didn’t kill anyone. Instead, I worked for peace, and helped bring about a cease-fire. And instead of rejecting God, I wound up affirming him. But I can’t take credit for either of those results. That was God’s work.
This, then, is our choice: when faced with events that trigger our sinful nature, do we give in to that nature? Do we seek vengeance? Do we nurture hatred? Do we seek to rely on ourselves for our well-being? Or do we let God convince us to turn to him? Do we choose love?
That is where the real battle between good and evil lies: in our own hearts. The war between good and evil is not fought on some celestial plane, but inside ourselves.
Jesus challenges us to choose his way over our own. And so does God. Every event, every blessing, every perceived evil has but one purpose: to turn our hearts to God.