June 7, 2013

Heaven on earth?

An age-old question asks, “If God is good, why do we have sickness, accidents, disasters…?” For the non-Christian, the answer is that “God is not good,” but for Christians, the answer is much more complex. We know that God is good, so what do we do with evil? How is it to be defined? What causes it? What do we do about it?

Jesus confronted the question before His crucifixion. He was totally innocent of any wrong-doing, but those who hated Him were going to put Him to death. As the man who is God, He said,

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” (John 12:27)

Jesus knew the purpose of His death. He dreaded the suffering, even sweating blood as He prayed about it. Yet the Bible says, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus saw beyond the disaster of His unwarranted crucifixion to the plan of God the results that would come of it. Further, He knew that the sin of others was behind this, but instead of railing against them or what they plotted, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

That is our problem. We are so bent on having our own way that we are blind to the consequences of saying ‘yes’ to sin and ‘no’ to God. The greater population does not see or agree that sin is the reason for all the nasty stuff in the world either. We really don’t know what we are doing.

I’ve done it; I’ve blamed God for “allowing” my sin. I’ve also said to my children, “You make me so impatient” when the impatience is my response. Children have no power to make anyone do anything. God did give us the ability to choose. He also offers us Jesus. Instead of doubting the goodness of God, a better question might be, “Why do I sin when God offers me a solution?”

I cannot make others behave the way I want them to behave. When others sin, even against me, Jesus set a pattern of response. He looked beyond the immediate discomfort and pain to the plan and promises of God, and instead of fighting His circumstances, He yielded to them. He could do that because He knew that God “works all things for good to those who love Him” (Romans 8:28) and that God is in charge of disasters.

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)

One day I will be in a sinless condition and a sinless place. That is why Christ died — that sinners like me could look forward to a very real deliverance from disaster and calamity and from our own sin. In the meantime, I can choose what I do about the mess that is in the world, and about the way I am treated by other sinners.
For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:20–23)
Faith in Christ means more than copying His example. He lives in my heart and gives me that same trust in my Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, I know that God is just and in control. He has shown me that suffering helps me know two great truths: the depth of my sin and the depth of His forgiveness, grace and mercy. If I were plopped into heaven without either, it would not be heaven but a selfish indulgence.

Wanting a disaster-free world can be a compassion because I hate to see others suffer, but it can also be a sinful desire to be free of everything that hinders me from wanting and having my own way. 

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