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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When Trouble Comes

 
As we look with awe on the bombing of the Boston Marathon yesterday, we are faced with a powerful question: Why? In the minds of people around the world, that very question burns hot and focused around tragedies such as this and provides a real barrier to a walk with God.

The problem goes like this. If God is all powerful and God is all loving, why do bad things happen? If God can prevent bad things and does not, the argument goes, He is not all loving. If God wants to prevent bad things but cannot, He is not all powerful. It is a salient argument which we insiders are often too quick to brush aside; tragedies on a national scale bring it to mind in a powerful way, which gives us an occasion to respond. I will not try and resolve this problem today, or even really answer it. My intention is not to provide a neat intellectual answer to this problem, but to speak to this need.

First, we need to realize that the person or people responsible for this are sick. You already knew that, which is why it is a good place to begin. Consider Jeremiah 17:9:

"The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick
Who can understand it?"

All else aside, mankind has a disease. We all lust for things which we should not have, that lust forms an embryo in our souls, until we give birth to some sin. Then, what that sin is fully grown, it becomes death[1].  We are always preys of that death, killed by our own monster. But the reality is that we are not its only victims. Sin never works like that. The man who thinks he is not hurting anyone but himself with his drinking destroys his family, the woman who becomes consumed by resentment soon finds it leaking out and corroding relationships. On April 15, some sin spilled over very directly and deliberately destroyed the lives of other people, but the story is the same; sometimes you see it, sometimes you do not. As far as God is concerned, whenever you have spilled out with hate, you have already murdered[2]. Whenever we finally know who the monster is that did this, realize that the monster is you, and the monster is me. In this case, the sin may have manifested differently, but it is the same rot. You have the potential to do the same or worse, and so do I. My sin has hurt other people before, and so has yours, sometimes just as deliberately premeditated.  God promises that such sin will not go unpunished, in us or them. Jeremiah continues:
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And desperately sick
Who can understand it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways
According to the results of his deeds.”

So we have this terrible problem of death. It begins in each of us, but splashes over into the lives of other people in a seemingly blind rampage. Death gives birth to death and death gives birth to death. Over and over again the process repeats. Like water, hatred, envy and prejudice flow beneath the surface, destructive but unseen, until they eventually break through in a geyser such as this and are visible for a moment, before returning to their silent ministry of eroding the ground beneath our feet. It is just as deadly there, but easier to ignore.

What is the answer to this epidemic? What is the answer to Jeremiah’s question? Jeremiah 17:13-14 tells us:

“O Lord, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake You will be put to shame.
Those who turn away on earth will be written down,
Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord.
14 Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed;
Save me and I will be saved,
For You are my praise.”

The apostle Paul explains it like this in Romans 7:24-8:3:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,”

 

God’s answer to evil, His master plan from the beginning of the universe, was to send Jesus to die, the just for the unjust. As a response to suffering, God himself suffered, and conquered suffering. Death has lost its power, 1 Corinthians 15 tells us, so that those who die in Christ are guaranteed to live again.

Jesus died for the people responsible for the murders in Boston. Jesus died for the one responsible for the murder in your own heart. This is not an intellectual response to the problem of evil, although I have toyed with those and good ones exist. This is a meditative one. As far as God is concerned, the answer to evil is Jesus. His death was good enough to forgive anyone who has ever sinned, no matter how wretched, if they will only turn away from their sin and trust in Him.

If you are not a Christian, you can be. I explain the whole process here. If you are a Christian, remember to show the love that God showed. Even as you pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones (and know that young children who die are taken straight to the arms of God), pray for the perpetrators, that they may find forgiveness. If you do not desire for them to be forgiven, then you need to see whether or not you are really a Christian[3] and not just someone wearing a label. When God lives inside of you, He changes things.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Maker of the Universe and Master of the World, we thank you for all that you have done for us and in the small mercies which we take for granted. We thank you for the common grace which drove some toward the bombs, even as others ran away and ask that you would give us that kind of courage. We ask that you would strengthen the families who have lost those dear to them, but even so, to soften our hearts to show compassion to the perpetrators. Even as you bring them to justice for this crime, bring them to yourself, that they might be forgiven by the death of your son, in whose name we pray,

Amen



[1] James 1:15.
[2] If you don’t believe me, hear it from Jesus: Matthew 5:21-22. If we could ever learn to really believe that, it would transform the entire world.
[3] 1 John from above says that if you do not have love, you are not saved. Or read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-48.

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