In light of our message series for Lent, I thought I would tackle three particular questions this week. The reason it is just three is because they are theological questions that will take time to answer. Of course this is a forum for discussion and if you do not fully agree with my reflection, feel free to comment. The first topic is a set of questions with one central theme – Why do bad things happen to good people? Let’s start with a list of the questions that you posed followed by the answer.
Why do people have to suffer through sickness, cancer, heart disease, etc.? Why do we have such evil things happen? Why didn’t God make us without the ability to feel anger, or hatred, or greed? How do we support war and military efforts when the result is so much pain and death? Why does God allow innocent babies to suffer? Why do babies and children die? Why are children born with health problems? Why do children have to suffer for their parents mistakes and the choices they make?
“In the beginning God created…” Genesis chapters 1and 2 tell the story of God’s creative power and the perfect state of God’s original creation – including humanity. But read the next chapter – humanity makes a conscious choice – disobey God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Our human parents chose to disobey God and the consequence of that was brokenness. Instead of the perfection of God’s original creation, we chose brokenness and we continue to choose it every day. The root of everything that is wrong in the world today is disobedience. The results of our disobedience — greed, lust, disease, war, hate, racism, envy, murder, laziness, corruption, addiction, heartbreak (do you get the point?) and smatterings of love, joy, and peace. The moment God expelled us from the Garden of Eden brokenness became our natural state of being. It is the world we came to live in and it is still our reality. But here is the next layer of this – brokenness is the perfect non-discriminator. It does not care about your gender, age, color/race, socio-economic status, nationality, or even your religious affiliation. Brokenness can take it’s toll on young or old, black or white, rich or poor, American or African, atheist or Christian and yes the effects can be devastating! That is what I believe about our circumstances. So what does God have to do with it?
God is not the creator of brokenness. Since God is holy, pure, and without malice God cannot create brokenness – left without God’s perfect presence and protection the corrupt influence of Satan did it’s work. Humans followed Satan’s lead by rebelling against God and the results were the same – just as Satan was cast out of God’s presence, so were we. Once God was fully present here on earth as in heaven. But because we disobeyed God and corrupted His creation, God could no longer dwell here. For now, we can only experience God through the Holy Spirit. We cannot know or dwell in the full presence of God because we are still broken. But that is not the end of the story!
God has experienced our brokenness through the only begotten Son – Jesus. God crossed the boundaries of heaven and became flesh to dwell among us. In the Son, God experienced our brokenness but was not corrupted by our brokenness. Jesus was fully human in every aspect AND he was fully divine. He felt the influence of our brokenness but did not participate in it for he was sinless. Why? To give himself as a ransom for many, to die a sacrificial death so that through faith in him we might have forgiveness of our sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting with God. In other words, to restore what we broke – fellowship with God.
Friends, I could go on much longer with an answer but I think this will cover the basics. If you want to read more there is a classic book written by Rabbi Harold Kushner titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People. A follow up that I would recommend is his book Who Needs God.
How do we feel more connected with Christ when we don’t have a tragedy or dilemma in life?
A few weeks back I quoted a hymn – “count your blessings, name them one by one – count your many blessings and see what God has done.” For some of us life has been smooth sailing. We have yet to encounter any kind of major tragedy or perplexing dilemma in life. Because your time and attention is not taken up by such events, you have the opportunity to devote even more time to the pursuit of God.
In the Wesleyan tradition we talk about the Christian life from the aspects of scripture, tradition, reason and experience. The deeper our experience of God the greater our capacity to navigate trouble. I find that most of us try to insulate ourselves from the pain of this world. Either through accumulation of resources or simply disengaging from reality – we try to avoid the brokenness. However your current state of blessing is only temporary (read the Book of Job or Ecclesiastes chapter 3 – both in the Old Testament). There will come a time when tragedy will find its way into your life. So since you have time to prepare for it let me suggest the following:
1) Be regimented about your daily devotion, scripture reading and prayer time
2) Serve the disadvantaged regularly – actually spend time working with the poor and oppressed in Kansas City
3) Avoid affluenza – avoid trying to insulate yourself from the troubled world around us
I believe that these disciplines will open you up to a greater experience of God’s presence and strengthen your faith for the moment of trial yet ahead.
What scientific evidence is there that God and Jesus existed?
Did you know that when Berlin fell to the Allies that Adolf Hitler’s body was never found? So if we cannot visit the tomb where he is buried how do those of us who did not live through World War II know for sure that he actually existed and died? I’ve never met him – have you? No. What we rely upon is the accurate account of history that includes subjects and persons that lived long before we were born. Jesus is a historical figure (read Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Christ for in depth research on the subject). With that being said, I want to approach the question from a different angle.
In almost every archaeological or anthropological study of ancient cultures we discover a system of worship. For the most ancient of civilizations worship was a part of their communal life. And it spanned the globe. No one introduced worship to the ancient Aztecs, the Egyptians, or native American Indians. But in each of their cultures there was the practice of worship. Look at us today – we “look up to” or worship sports figures, possessions, nature, cultural icons. It is a part of our being – the act of worship. The Hebrew Scriptures (or our Old Testament) proclaims God as the center of our worship because God is creator, sustainer, and redeemer.
Can we scientifically prove that God exists? I don’t think we are intelligent enough to create a science experiment that would prove or disprove God’s existence. What is hard to disprove is the overwhelming evidence of the human need to worship. The reason I believe that God is the center of our worship is because of the teachings of the historic Christian faith.
1) God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit – of the same essence, in perfect harmony and union, expressing creation, redemption and sustainability of God’s realm
2) God came to dwell with us in our human form for the express purpose of self-sacrifice
3) God’s sacrifice is for human redemption and empowerment to serve one another
If we live by these principles and express the nature of God through love, mercy, and self-sacrifice then we daily prove the existence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – one God forever and ever. We are the living, breathing, historical example and witness to God and Jesus.
Thanks for taking time to read this week’s Q&A – I hope as you read through this you find it thought provoking and encouraging. Faith is a journey and my prayer is that God’s blessings be upon you.