Monday, July 29, 2013

No Easy Answer for Evil

"You don’t get to pick how and when your life intersects with Jesus. But you do have control over how He reacts to you when the collision occurs."

I made this statement in a previous blog post. As I've re-read that statement and discussed it with friends, I realize this is confusing. How can anyone control anyone else's response to anything? I should have figured out a better way to express this thought.

Here's what I've come to understand about Jesus: Jesus is consistent and Jesus is good all the time. He has no bad in Him. He has no ill will toward men. This is a constant.

If He is a good God, then why is there evil? The question has been asked over and over. It's a question that is asked differently in different places and periods of time. The best answers we can offer are often printed on bumper stickers (or blogs).

Evil is too big for shallow answers. Bumper stickers aren’t up to to the task. Shallow answers shouldn’t define how you live your life.

People in the pre-Christian world didn't ask questions like this. The deities the ancients prayed to were caught up in their own conflicts, politics and drama. People sacrificed to those deities hoping to grab their attention long enough for favorable action to be taken.

The world was harsh and evil. It was a given. The gods weren't blamed. They were entreated with sacrifices and requests.

Now we know that the Creator God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. We’ve boiled things down to: “Jesus died for my sins so I can go to heaven.” That’s how most of us understand the project of God. Forgive me if I’ve oversimplified things, but this is how I’ve lived for years.

This has resulted in religious practice that mixes a form of ancient sacrifice with Christian theology. I know that my sacrifice doesn’t get me to heaven, Jesus’s work does that. But I am still trying to get His attention so He’ll act on my behalf. I try to live right, believe right, use the right vocabulary, and have the right friends so that I’ll please Him and get Him to bless me.

When God doesn't act or things don't happen the way I think they should – or worse, tragedy strikes – I blame God and even act bitterly toward Him while still acting holy when you’re watching me. This kind of behavior leads to all kinds of evil.

In ancient Judaism, an answer to why evil exists is absent. There is much we are not told in the Bible about evil. The Bible points us to mystery. Deuteronomy 29:29 says "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." This verse is the best we get. Please don’t print this on a bumper sticker. But do take it to heart and stop trying to figure out evil. You’ll go crazy.

Here is our place as humans: we have responsibility and dignity. God made us to run the world and we’ve run the program off the tracks. The problem of evil won't be solved through philosophy or education or politics or technology. The world has to be brought through Jesus to make it right again. This process exposes evil as it eradicates it.

This process is not over yet. God is at work putting things back together through Jesus and His followers. It’s your job and it’s my job to be a partner in this process. And there’s no way to keep yourself from getting soiled as you do the work.

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