By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Contemporary English Version)
Quotation For Contemplation
““Why not? Surely there are many people in your world you think deserve judgment. There must be at least a few who are to blame for so much of the pain and suffering. What about the greedy who feed off the poor of the world? What about the ones who sacrifice their young children to war? What about the men who beat their wives, Mackenzie? What about the fathers who beat their sons for no reason but to assuage their own suffering? Don’t they deserve judgment, Mackenzie?” Mack could sense the depths of his unresolved anger rising like a flood of fury. He sank back into the chair, trying to maintain his balance against an onslaught of images, but he could feel his control ebbing away. His stomach knotted as he clenched his fists, his breathing coming short and quick. “And what about the man who preys on innocent little girls? What about him, Mackenzie? Is that man guilty? Should he be judged?” “Yes!” screamed Mack. “Damn him to hell!” “Is he to blame for your loss?” “Yes!” “What about his father, the man who twisted his son into a terror, what about him?” “Yes, him too!” “How far do we go back, Mackenzie? This legacy of brokenness goes all the way back to Adam—what about him? But why stop there? What about God? God started this whole thing. Is God to blame?” Mack was reeling. He didn’t feel like a judge at all, but rather the one on trial. The woman was unrelenting. “Isn’t this where you are stuck, Mackenzie? Isn’t this what fuels The Great Sadness? That God cannot be trusted? Surely, a father like you can judge the Father!” Again his anger rose like a towering flame. He wanted to lash out, but she was right and there was no point in denying it. She continued, “Isn’t that your just complaint, Mackenzie? That God has failed you, that he failed Missy? That before the creation, God knew that one day your Missy would be brutalized, and still he created? And then he allowed that twisted soul to snatch her from your loving arms when he had the power to stop him. Isn’t God to blame, Mackenzie?” Mack was looking at the floor, a flurry of images pulling his emotions in every direction. Finally he said it, louder than he intended, and pointed his finger right at her: “Yes! God is to blame!” The accusation hung in the room as the gavel fell in his heart.” (William P. Young, The Shack, 2680-2699 (Kindle Edition); Newbury Park, CA; Windblown Media)
Questions For Consideration
Could God be evil?
How could we call God evil without first having a standard of goodness by which to call Him evil?
What would the universe be like if the all-powerful God were wicked?
Job’s Big Struggle: The Goodness Of God
In our last lesson, we learned that atheism cannot account for the existence of the evil, pain, and suffering in our universe. Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming that there must be a God.
With this being the case, we will now examine whether or not spiritual sadism could explain the evil, pain, and suffering in our world.
Spiritual sadism is the belief that the Creator is evil, and that He derives pleasure from the suffering of the Creation. As strange as this might sound to some, this was something which Job himself considered and contemplated several times through his Book. For example, we read:
Job 7:11-14-11 And so, I cry out to you in agony and distress.
12 Am I the sea or a sea monster? Is that why you imprison me?
13 I go to bed, hoping for rest,
14 but you torture me with terrible dreams.
Job 9:1-24-21-I am not guilty, but I no longer care what happens to me.
22 What difference does it make? God destroys the innocent along with the guilty.
23 When a good person dies a sudden death, God sits back and laughs.
24 And who else but God blindfolds the judges, then lets the wicked take over the earth?
Job 10:3-Why do you take such delight in destroying those you created and in smiling on sinners?
Job 23:2-Today I complain bitterly, because God has been cruel and made me suffer.
Job 27:2-I am desperate because God All-Powerful refuses to do what is right. As surely as God lives,
Job 34:5-Job claims he is innocent and God is guilty of mistreating him.
The question of the goodness of God is hardly limited to the struggles of Job. Throughout time, people have asked whether or not God is truly good.
When struggling with the atrocities and wickedness of mankind and of the world in general, the question, “Where is God?” Has always been present.
One gripping example of this struggle comes from the pen of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel:
“One day, as I was about to enter the synagogue, I saw Moishe the Beadle sitting on a bench near the entrance. He told me what had happened to him and his companions. The train with the deportees had crossed the Hungarian border and, once in Polish territory, had been taken over by the Gestapo. The train had stopped. The Jews were ordered to get off and onto waiting trucks. The trucks headed toward a forest. There everybody was ordered to get out. They were forced to dig huge trenches. When they had finished their work, the men from the Gestapo began theirs. Without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who were forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks. Infants were tossed into the air and used as targets for the machine guns….My father was crying. It was the first time I saw him cry. I had never thought it possible. As for my mother, she was walking, her face a mask, without a word, deep in thought. I looked at my little sister, Tzipora, her blond hair neatly combed, her red coat over her arm: a little girl of seven. On her back a bag too heavy for her. She was clenching her teeth; she already knew it was useless to complain. Here and there, the police were lashing out with their clubs: “Faster!” I had no strength left. The journey had just begun and I already felt so weak … “Faster! Faster! Move, you lazy good- for- nothings!” the Hungarian police were screaming. That was when I began to hate them, and my hatred remains our only link today. They were our first oppressors. They were the first faces of hell and death. They ordered us to run. We began to run. Who would have thought that we were so strong? From behind their windows, from behind their shutters, our fellow citizens watched as we passed. We finally arrived at our destination. Throwing down our bundles, we dropped to the ground: “Oh God, Master of the Universe, in your infinite compassion, have mercy on us …”…The baton pointed to the left. I took half a step forward. I first wanted to see where they would send my father. Were he to have gone to the right, I would have run after him. The baton, once more, moved to the left. A weight lifted from my heart. We did not know, as yet, which was the better side, right or left, which road led to prison and which to the crematoria. Still, I was happy, I was near my father. Our procession continued slowly to move forward. Another inmate came over to us: “Satisfied?” “Yes,” someone answered. “Poor devils, you are heading for the crematorium.” He seemed to be telling the truth. Not far from us, flames, huge flames, were rising from a ditch. Something was being burned there. A truck drew close and unloaded its hold: small children. Babies! Yes, I did see this, with my own eyes … children thrown into the flames. (Is it any wonder that ever since then, sleep tends to elude me?) So that was where we were going. A little farther on, there was another, larger pit for adults. I pinched myself: Was I still alive? Was I awake? How was it possible that men, women, and children were being burned and that the world kept silent? No. All this could not be real. A nightmare perhaps … Soon I would wake up with a start, my heart pounding, and find that I was back in the room of my childhood, with my books …He didn’t answer. He was weeping. His body was shaking. Everybody around us was weeping. Someone began to recite Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. I don’t know whether, during the history of the Jewish people, men have ever before recited Kaddish for themselves. “ Yisgadal, veyiskadash, shmey raba … May His name be celebrated and sanctified …” whispered my father. For the first time, I felt anger rising within me. Why should I sanctify His name? The Almighty, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for?. (Ellie Wiesel, Night, 6, 19, 31, 33 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Hill and Wang A division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Several other authors could obviously be cited alongside of Job, yet this raises the question: can we know that God is good? From the Book of Job, we find at least five great evidences of the goodness of God.
One: God Is Good Because He Does Good
Throughout the Book of Job (and through the entire Bible), we are reminded of the fact that God does good throughout His Creation. For example:
Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)-44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Job 25:3 (NKJV)- Is there any number to His armies? Upon whom does His light not rise?
Psalm 145:9 (NKJV)-The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
Acts 14:17 (NKJV)-Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”
This is especially displayed in Job 38-42, where God questions Job. These questions are designed to impress upon Job the fact that God is good and adequately cares for His Creation:
“But these questions also point to God’s wisdom and care. These are not simply questions about power. Their function is not simply to remind Job of God’s power, but also to remind him of God’s wisdom and care. The questions are not arbitrary; they move from God’s creative work when he laid the foundations of the world (38:4-7) and controlled the chaotic waters (38:8-11) to his transcendence over the chaos of the wicked and death (38:12-21), control over the waters (snow, rain, rivers) of the earth (38:22-30, 34-38), and his regulation of the stars and seasons (38:31-33). The questions then move to the animal kingdom and God’s management of his living creatures. The questions are not just about knowledge but about care. God asks if Job “knows” (e.g., 39:1), but he also asks whether Job can manage this creation and care for it the way God does. Does Job hunt for the lion (38:39), feed the young ravens (38:41), give the wild donkey his home (39:6), use the wild ox in his service (39:9-12), care for the ostrich even though she has no sense (39:12-18), and give the horse his strength (39:19)? God asks, “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom (39:26), or “does the eagle soar at your command? (39:27). Through his power God manages his creation with wisdom and care. God’s creation is not the playground of his power but the nursery of his care. The world is not out of control; God is managing it quite nicely.” (John Mark Hicks, Yet Will I Trust Him: Understanding God In A Suffering World, 173-174 (emphasis added, M.T.); Joplin, MO; College Press Publishing Company)
Two: God Is Good Because He Is Perfect
Another example of the goodness of God is seen in the fact that God is perfect in His Nature.
Job 37:16 (NKJV)-Do you know how the clouds are balanced, Those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?
Indeed, the perfection of God in every way is displayed throughout Job 38-42.
There we see His perfection in knowledge and goodness, His complete sufficiency and lack of dependence upon mankind, and His compete omnipotence (all-powerfulness) and omnipresence (in all places at once).
God-by His very definition-must be completely non-contingent (that is, depending on nothing outside of Himself for existence).
We know that contingent beings exist; for example, I exist, and I depend upon several things outside of myself for existence (gravity, food, oxygen, water, my parents, etc.).
Since contingent beings exist, and yet do not have the reason for their existence within themselves, then why do they exist? The only rational answer is that there is a Being which exists which is completely non-contingent.
Since this Being must be completely non-contingent, it must be perfect; for a completely self-sufficient Being could not have an imperfection (that which is lacking), for this would be self-contradictory (I.e., you cannot have a fully self-sufficient Being that is lacking). Therefore, God is perfect in all of His attributes. Furthermore, since one of God’s attributes is goodness (I.e., the only way God could do good is if He is, since a Cause may only communicate to the effect that which it possesses), we see therefore that God is perfect in goodness.
Three: God Is Good Because He Gives The Wicked Opportunity To Repent
We are reminded of the goodness of God when we consider how He is patient wth sinners and gives them time to repent of sin. One of Zophar’s speeches strongly emphasizes this:
Job 11:13-19-13 Surrender your heart to God, turn to him in prayer,
14 and give up your sins— even those you do in secret.
15 Then you won’t be ashamed; you will be confident and fearless.
16 Your troubles will go away like water beneath a bridge,
17 and your darkest night will be brighter than noon.
18 You will rest safe and secure, filled with hope and emptied of worry.
19 You will sleep without fear and be greatly respected.
Especially in Elihu’s defense of God (Job 3237) is this made clear. Elihu wants Job to consider how good God is in allowing the wicked to repent of sin and in refusing to show partiality among men:
Job 36:8-12-8 But when people are prisoners of suffering and pain,
9 God points out their sin and their pride,
10 then he warns them to turn back to him.
11 And if they obey, they will be successful and happy from then on.
12 But if they foolishly refuse, they will be rewarded with a violent death.
Every day that we live we see examples of God’s goodness and forgiveness.
2 Peter 3:9-The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.
1 Timothy 2:1-6-1 First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them.
2 Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God.
3 This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior.
4 God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is,
5 There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God.
Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us.
6 God showed us this at the right time.
People curse God continually in this life. If God were wicked and capricious, He would not allow this to continue. Try to imagin the most wicked being imaginable coupled with the power of God.
As one friend told me, if God were evil, He would squash blasphemes like a bug!
The fact of God’s longsuffering and willingness to pardon is one of the strongest indicators of His good Nature:
Job 42:1-6-1 Job said:
2 No one can oppose you, because you have the power to do what you want.
3 You asked why I talk so much when I know so little. I have talked about things that are far beyond my understanding.
4 You told me to listen and answer your questions.
5 I heard about you from others; now I have seen you with my own eyes.
6 That’s why I hate myself and sit here in dust and ashes to show my sorrow.
Job 42:7-9-7 The LORD said to Eliphaz: What my servant Job has said about me is true, but I am angry at you and your two friends for not telling the truth.
8 So I want you to go over to Job and offer seven bulls and seven goats on an altar as a sacrifice to please me. After this, Job will pray, and I will agree not to punish you for your foolishness.
9 Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar obeyed the LORD, and he answered Job’s prayer.
Four: God Is Good Because He Brings Goodness Out Of Suffering
While we will not cover in detail the goodness that God brought to Job through his suffering and trails (that is a future lesson), we will notice briefly that God brought good through the trials of Job.
Job 42:10-16-10 After Job had prayed for his three friends, the LORD made Job twice as rich as he had been before.
11 Then Job gave a feast for his brothers and sisters and for his old friends. They expressed their sorrow for the suffering the LORD had brought on him, and they each gave Job some silver and a gold ring.
12 The LORD now blessed Job more than ever; he gave him fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand pair of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.
13 In addition to seven sons, Job had three daughters,
14 whose names were Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren Happuch.
15 They were the most beautiful women in that part of the world, and Job gave them shares of his property, along with their brothers.
16 Job lived for another one hundred forty years—long enough to see his great-grandchildren have children of their own—
17 and when he finally died, he was very old.
It is when we consider the goodness of God that He brings even in the midst of our trials that we can better understand His heart. It is when we see the things that go right, and how these always outshadow the things that go “wrong,” that we are able to better appreciate the ways that God demonstrates His lovingkindness.
One of my favorite books that illustrates this is written by Stephen King (warning: the language in this book is often unChristian).
Discussing the encounter of Roland and his small band of followers with “the Rose,” we read:
“Eddie saw great things and near misses. Albert Einstein as a child, not quite struck by a runaway milk-wagon as he crossed a street. A teenage boy named Albert Schweitzer getting out of a bathtub and not quite stepping on the cake of soap lying beside the pulled plug. A Nazi Oberleutnant burning a piece of paper with the date and place of the D-Day invasion written on it. He saw a man who intended to poison the entire water supply of Denver die of a heart attack in a roadside rest stop on I-80 in Iowa with a bag of McDonald’s french fries on his lap. He saw a terrorist wired up with explosives suddenly turn away from a crowded restaurant in a city that might have been Jerusalem. The terrorist had been transfixed by nothing more than the sky, and the thought that it arced above the just and unjust alike. He saw four men rescue a little boy from a monster whose entire head seemed to consist of a single eye. But more important than any of these was the vast, accretive weight of small things, from planes which hadn’t crashed to men and women who had come to the correct place at the perfect time and thus founded generations. He saw kisses exchanged in doorways and wallets returned and men who had come to a splitting of the way and chosen the right fork. He saw a thousand random meetings that weren’t random, ten thousand right decisions, a hundred thousand right answers, a million acts of unacknowledged kindness. He saw the old people of River Crossing and Roland kneeling in the dust for Aunt Talitha’s blessing; again heard her giving it freely and gladly. Heard her telling him to lay the cross she had given him at the foot of the Dark Tower and speak the name of Talitha Unwin at the far end of the earth. He saw the Tower itself in the burning folds of the rose and for a moment understood its purpose: how it distributed its lines of force to all the worlds that were and held them steady in time’s great helix. For every brick that landed on the ground instead of some little kid’s head, for every tornado that missed the trailer park, for every missile that didn’t fly, for every hand stayed from violence, there was the Tower.” (Stephen King, The Dark Tower V: Wolves Of The Calla, 194-195 (Kindle Edition); Hampton Falls, New Hampshire: Donald M. Grant Publisher, Inc.)
If we would stop and consider the numerous ways throughout time, and throughout our lives, that God has brought good (even through the trials that we have faced), we would be truly amazed.
Romans 5:1-4-1 By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God.
2 Christ has also introduced us to God’s undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.
3 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.
4 And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope
2 Corinthians 4:16-18-16 We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day.
17 These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing.
18 Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen.
Five: God Is Good Because Of Jesus
A fifth example of the goodness of God as seen in the Book of Job is through the promise of the Savior Who would one day come to the Earth:
Job 19:25-27 (NKJV)-25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
When we look to the Book of Job, we see that one of the greatest and most important indicators of the goodness of God is seen in the fact that Job knew one day his Redeemer would come to the world. Speaking of the fact that Jesus is so powerfully portrayed in the Book of Job, one author has pointed out:
“The most significant question, however, is the third one: what kind of Savior do we need? Or to put it another way, what kind of man does the universe need? The more I have bashed my head against the text of Job year after year, the more deeply convinced I have become that the book ultimately makes no sense without the obedience of Jesus Christ, his obedience to death on a cross. Job is not everyman; he is not even every believer. There is something desperately extreme about Job. He foreshadows one man whose greatness exceeded even Job’s, whose sufferings took him deeper than Job, and whose perfect obedience to his Father was only anticipated in faint outline by Job. The universe needed one man who would lovingly and perfectly obey his heavenly Father in the entirety of his life and death, by whose obedience the many would be made righteous (Romans 5:19).” (Christopher Ash (Edited by Kent Hughes), Preaching The Word: Job, 21 (Kindle Edition); Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway)
Jesus Christ is, indeed, the Answer of God to the problem of evil, pain, and suffering. This is displayed in both His life and in His death.
The Life Of Jesus
Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded continually of the compassion of the Savior:
Matthew 9:36 (NKJV)-But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
Matthew 14:14 (NKJV)-And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.
Matthew 15:32 (NKJV)-Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)-For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
The heart of Jesus is one of kindness and compassion.
“The heart of Jesus was pure. The Savior was adored by thousands, yet content to live a simple life. He was cared for by women (Luke 8: 1–3), yet never accused of lustful thoughts; scorned by his own creation, but willing to forgive them before they even requested his mercy. Peter, who traveled with Jesus for three and a half years, described him as a “lamb, unblemished and spotless” (1 Pet. 1: 19 NASB). After spending the same amount of time with Jesus, John concluded, “And in him is no sin” (1 John 3: 5 NIV). Jesus’ heart was peaceful. The disciples fretted over the need to feed the thousands, but not Jesus. He thanked God for the problem. The disciples shouted for fear in the storm, but not Jesus. He slept through it. Peter drew his sword to fight the soldiers, but not Jesus. He lifted his hand to heal. His heart was at peace. When his disciples abandoned him, did he pout and go home? When Peter denied him, did Jesus lose his temper? When the soldiers spit in his face, did he breathe fire in theirs? Far from it. He was at peace. He forgave them. He refused to be guided by vengeance. He also refused to be guided by anything other than his high call. His heart was purposeful. Most lives aim at nothing in particular and achieve it. Jesus aimed at one goal—to save humanity from its sin. He could summarize his life with one sentence: “The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19: 10 RSV). Jesus was so focused on his task that he knew when to say, “My time has not yet come” (John 2: 4) and when to say, “It is finished” (John 19: 30). But he was not so focused on his goal that he was unpleasant. Quite the contrary. How pleasant were his thoughts! Children couldn’t resist Jesus. He could find beauty in lilies, joy in worship, and possibilities in problems. He would spend days with multitudes of sick people and still feel sorry for them. He spent over three decades wading through the muck and mire of our sin yet still saw enough beauty in us to die for our mistakes. But the crowning attribute of Christ was this: his heart was spiritual. His thoughts reflected his intimate relationship with the Father. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” he stated (John 14: 11). His first recorded sermon begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Luke 4: 18 NASB). He was “led by the Spirit” (Matt. 4: 1 NIV) and “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4: 1 NIV). He returned from the desert “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4: 14 NIV). Jesus took his instructions from God. It was his habit to go to worship (Luke 4: 16). It was his practice to memorize scripture (Luke 4: 4). Luke says Jesus “often slipped away to be alone so he could pray” (Luke 5: 16). His times of prayer guided him. He once returned from prayer and announced it was time to move to another city (Mark 1: 38). Another time of prayer resulted in the selection of the disciples (Luke 6: 12–13). Jesus was led by an unseen hand. “The Son does whatever the Father does” (John 5: 19). In the same chapter he stated, “I can do nothing alone. I judge only the way I am told” (John 5: 30). The heart of Jesus was spiritual.” (Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus: A Heart Like His, 10-13 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson)
One poet, in trying to describe the incredible impact of Jesus Christ on the word, has written:
“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.He grew up in another village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.” (James Allan Francis, The Real Jesus and Other Sermons (Philadelphia et al.: The Judson Press, 1926), p. 123. Note: this version of “One Solitary Life” is slightly modified from the original.)
The Death Of Jesus
As powerful as the life of Jesus is, so also is the power of His death:
Hebrews 2:9-What we do see is Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels. Because of God’s wonderful kindness, Jesus died for everyone. And now that Jesus has suffered and died, he is crowned with glory and honor!
2 Corinthians 5:14-21-14 We are ruled by Christ’s love for us. We are certain that if one person died for everyone else, then all of us have died.
15 And Christ did die for all of us. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for the one who died and was raised to life for us.
16 We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in that way.
17 Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.
18 God has done it all! He sent Christ to make peace between himself and us, and he has given us the work of making peace between himself and others.
19 What we mean is that God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And he has given us the work of sharing his message about peace.
20 We were sent to speak for Christ, and God is begging you to listen to our message. We speak for Christ and sincerely ask you to make peace with God.
21 Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God.
Colossians 1:20-23-20 And God was pleased for him to make peace by sacrificing his blood on the cross, so that all beings in heaven and on earth would be brought back to God.
21 You used to be far from God. Your thoughts made you his enemies, and you did evil things.
22 But his Son became a human and died. So God made peace with you, and now he lets you stand in his presence as people who are holy and faultless and innocent.
23 But you must stay deeply rooted and firm in your faith. You must not give up the hope you received when you heard the good news.
It was preached to everyone on earth, and I myself have become a servant of this message.
In speaking of why Jesus’ death on the Cross is so powerful, the writer of Hebrews points out:
Hebrews 2:14-18-14 We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had power over death.
15 But he also died to rescue all of us who live each day in fear of dying.
16 Jesus clearly did not come to help angels, but he did come to help Abraham’s descendants.
17 He had to be one of us, so that he could serve God as our merciful and faithful high priest and sacrifice himself for the forgiveness of our sins.
18 And now that Jesus has suffered and was tempted, he can help anyone else who is tempted.
One of my favorite authors, Peter Kreeft, describes in great detail the significance of the death of Jesus and its’ connection with the problem of evil, pain, and suffering:
““I think Mr. Templeton is anthropomorphizing God by saying, ‘I couldn’t imagine how any intelligent being could bear this,’ ” Kreeft said. “And, yes, he’s right—we can’t imagine it. But we can believe it. God does, in fact, weep over every sparrow and grieve over every evil and every suffering. So the suffering that Christ endured on the cross is literally unimaginable. It’s not just what you and I would have experienced in our own finite human agony, physical and mental, but all the sufferings of the world were there….God’s answer is the Incarnation. He himself entered into all that agony, he himself bore all of the pain of this world, and that’s unimaginable and shattering and even more impressive than the divine power of creating the world in the first place. “Just imagine every single pain in the history of the world, all rolled together into a ball, eaten by God, digested, fully tasted, eternally. In the act of creating the world, God not only said, let there be pretty little bunny rabbits and flowers and sunsets, but also let there be blood and guts and the buzzing flies around the cross. In a sense, Templeton is right. God is intimately involved in the act of creating a world of suffering. He didn’t do it—we did it—yet he did say, ‘Let this world be.’ “And if he did that and then just sat back and said, ‘Well, it’s your fault after all’—although he’d be perfectly justified in doing that—I don’t see how we could love him. The fact that he went beyond justice and quite incredibly took all the suffering upon himself, makes him so winsome that the answer to suffering is—” Kreeft’s eyes darted around the room as he searched for the right words. “The answer,” he said, “is . . . how could you not love this being who went the extra mile, who practiced more than he preached, who entered into our world, who suffered our pains, who offers himself to us in the midst of our sorrows? What more could he do?” I said, “In effect, then, the answer to Templeton’s question about how could God bear all that suffering is—he did.” “He did!” Kreeft declared. “God’s answer to the problem of suffering is that he came right down into it. Many Christians try to get God off the hook for suffering; God put himself on the hook, so to speak—on the cross. And therefore the practical conclusion is that if we want to be with God, we have to be with suffering, we have to not avoid the cross, either in thought or in fact. We must go where he is and the cross is one of the places where he is. And when he sends us the sunrises, we thank him for the sunrises; when he sends us sunsets and deaths and sufferings and crosses, we thank him for that.”..We were clearly moving toward the climax of our discussion. The clues Kreeft had mentioned at the outset of our interview were converging, and I could sense an increasing passion and conviction in his voice. I wanted to see more of his heart—and I wouldn’t be disappointed. “The answer, then, to suffering,” I said in trying to sum up where we’ve come, “is not an answer at all.” “Correct,” he emphasized, leaning forward as he pleaded his case. “It’s the Answerer. It’s Jesus himself. It’s not a bunch of words, it’s the Word. It’s not a tightly woven philosophical argument; it’s a person. The person. The answer to suffering cannot just be an abstract idea, because this isn’t an abstract issue; it’s a personal issue. It requires a personal response. The answer must be someone, not just something, because the issue involves someone—God, where are you?” That question almost echoed in his small office. It demanded a response. To Kreeft, there is one—a very real one. A living One. “Jesus is there, sitting beside us in the lowest places of our lives,” he said. “Are we broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are we despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do we cry out that we can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Do people betray us? He was sold out himself. Are our tenderest relationships broken? He too loved and was rejected. Do people turn from us? They hid their faces from him as from a leper. “Does he descend into all of our hells? Yes, he does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote: ‘No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.’ He not only rose from the dead, he changed the meaning of death and therefore of all the little deaths—the sufferings that anticipate death and make up parts of it. “He is gassed in Auschwitz. He is sneered at in Soweto. He is mocked in Northern Ireland. He is enslaved in the Sudan. He’s the one we love to hate, yet to us he has chosen to return love. Every tear we shed becomes his tear. He may not wipe them away yet, but he will.” (Peter Kreeft in Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith: A Journalist Investigates The Toughest Objections To Christianity, 45-52 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
Speaking of why the death of Jesus Christ is so powerful, another author has written:
“The death of Jesus was qualitatively different from any other death. The physical pain was nothing compared to the spiritual experience of cosmic abandonment. 10 Christianity alone among the world religions claims that God became uniquely and fully human in Jesus Christ and therefore knows firsthand despair, rejection, loneliness, poverty, bereavement, torture, and imprisonment. On the cross he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds ours as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours. In his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken. 11 Why did he do it? The Bible says that Jesus came on a rescue mission for creation. He had to pay for our sins so that someday he can end evil and suffering without ending us. Let’s see where this has brought us. If we again ask the question: “Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?” and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself….So, if we embrace the Christian teaching that Jesus is God and that he went to the Cross, then we have deep consolation and strength to face the brutal realities of life on earth. We can know that God is truly Immanuel God with us— even in our worst sufferings.” (Timothy Keller, The Reason For God: Belief In An Age Of Skepticism, 28-29 (Kindle Edition): New York, NY: Penguin Group)
Without a doubt, one of the greatest examples of the goodness of God is Jesus Christ.
Spiritual sadism does not account for the existence of evil, pain, and suffering. Indeed, the fact of the evil, pain, and suffering in this world cannot compare with the goodness and mercy of God that we see displayed everyday and which we often take for granted.
The goodness of God endures continually (Psalm 52:1).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
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