[Editor’s Note: The following article was written on the evening of November 13, 2015, the night of the Paris terror attacks]
You ask someone to describe God, and regardless of how much of the Bible they know or understand, they will use words like “holy”, “sovereign”, “righteous”, and “just”, all fully applicable to Him. Even if the one using them doesn’t have a thorough understanding of what the words mean, they connect these concepts with Him, as Scripture attests to each characteristic explicitly and through implication. Still, another word, far more general than these and ultimately confounding to many, is the label of God being “good”. Here in mid-November, in preparation for Thanksgiving, you may have even seen in a devotional reading or heard in a recent sermon this verse and seen that connection:
Psalm 136:1 (NKJV) Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
By the time of this reading, the world is aware of the unfolding story of the attacks in Paris, France. As I write this, hearing the news come in gradually over the evening, we don’t know who perpetrated these things, and as more and more information comes through, we still don’t fully understand why. Regardless, God is good, so Scripture tells us. Even in the midst of so many dead at the hands of other people, God is good, Scripture proclaims. Derived from the will of God, as shown through the Scriptures, we see the picture painted of an omnipotent being, the creator of man lovingly making a way for His creation to be with Him in Eternity. We see that in His omnipotence, He is fully capable in that power of preventing evil, and ultimately, He will banish evil and the instigator of all things unholy, Satan, to a place of eternal separation from Himself and those who follow Him. Those are incredible Biblical statements to read and believe, and they make up a core of our Christian experience, but in the face of terrorist attacks on a global scale or all of the maliciousness, hatred, and perversity we read of in isolated stories all over our nation on a daily basis, what about God in the present, right here, right now?
How is it that a God that clearly seeks to ultimately put away such evils, never desiring any of them to befall us in the first place, allow such things to continue?
A better question might be: How could He solve it?
HE COULD CHANGE US:
On one hand, He could change each of us as beings to where we no longer permit sin through our thoughts or actions. He could “reprogram” us, against our wills, to desire Him and only His ways for us, thereby removing all meaning from actually having a relationship with Him. Our lineage that ties back to the Garden to Adam & Eve shows parameters set by God. God commanded, and obedience was expected. Yet, sin entered with the failing of those commands. The path of complete happiness, purpose, and usefulness to a creator God was established in the Garden, and through man’s choice, it was corrupted there by him as well. Still, choice was that great gift given to Adam and Eve by God: the ability to obey to serve, and to love the God that made them. Without that, they would not have been created in the image of God. They would have existed in a physical sense, but they wouldn’t have truly lived without that freedom to choose either to obey or to not obey. The freedom to choose is that mark which makes us ultimately human, the crown jewel of God’s creation; we can make the correct choices, or we can fail miserably and harm ourselves or others. I believe we’ve seen that failing in a terrible way in Paris, but denial of our ability to make choices would not make the unchanging God just, working against His own established character.
HE COULD STOP IT:
In another way, God could act supernaturally at all times in every sinful instance, essentially preventing any sin from ever occurring. Through means unforeseen by us, He could stop an abortion from ever happening, jam the guns of anyone seeking to use them to kill another, prevent sexual sins from destroying families, stop the manufacturing of drugs and alcohol, etc. That sounds like a winner, but the list goes on and on of all the things God could do to prevent sin, and that list would have to include all of the things we also would let slide. While we grade sin on a curve (especially, in relation to ourselves and those we love), God sees sin as what it is at its absolute core, regardless of size or degree: the infraction against His declared standards by doing what He declares for us not to do, or by not doing what He commands us to do. No matter how we ourselves grade it, sin is sin to God, and if He stopped sin in every case in this life through supernatural means, when volitional choice is the essential component to a relationship with Him, it would again be unjust “reprogramming” (in this case, “reprogramming” the world and our surroundings, instead of us as individuals).
HE COULD REMOVE THE EVILDOERS:
If ever there was a method to solve it all, surely, this must be it. Presidential candidates were asked the question recently, after a New York Times poll asked readers the strange question, “If you could go back and kill Hitler as a baby, would you do it?“. Their answers have sparked a dialogue about this idea just this week (FYI: 42% of respondents to the New York Times said YES, 30% said NO, 28% were unsure). Surely, if we could remove dangerous people, or rather, if He could remove them, the world would not be evil. Still, it denies the fact that Scripture shows we all have sinned (Romans 3:23). If all that is evil or against God at some point was to be removed, we would all be removed, as rebellion stirs in the heart of man. You may say, “But, I’ve never killed anyone, or cheated on my spouse, or stolen anything! I’m not that bad of a person.” Again, there is the grading of sin. Scripture shows that sin functions beyond the level of commission as we often see it at first glance.
Matthew 5:21-22 (NKJV) “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.
Matthew 5:27-28 (NKJV) “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
You see, sin starts before it ever actually happens. All of those who have lost their lives at the hands of the attackers in Paris lost them in the minds of the perpetrators in the planning stages of this atrocity, wherever those plans took place. The sin began before tonight, and it grew in hearts that fed it by seeking pure destruction, instead of the life and love that God wants in all of our hearts instead. I can honestly say that I couldn’t see myself doing what’s been done tonight, killing my fellow man in such terrible, terrible ways. Still, personally, I have hated others, I have lusted after what was never mine, and I have wanted the things that would do me no good but belonged to another. I have, in principle, murdered, stole, and burned in lust, and I am a sinner. I am a pastor, a man of God called to follow Him. Yet, I am a sinner, and so are you. If God removed all evildoers from this world, this world would be empty, and with our hearts not saved through the redemptive blood of Christ, we would not be in the presence of a most Holy God. This “solution” is not viable for us, and it could not satisfy the depth of love of the God who spent so much for each of us on the Cross.
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
With none of these solutions viable, we are left with the conditioned state we are in: a world marked by sin, with a loving God, crying out to His creation, “Come to me.” People break God’s commands every moment, whether they manifest themselves in observable ways to us or not, and it grieves God to witness it. Sometimes, those mistakes, horrible mistakes, result in tragedy that affects us all. My heart is broken for what has happened in France. God did not desire this day to be as it is. Yes, He is omnipotent, but He is also loving, and love never removes volition. God’s goodness, that concept we have difficulty seeing in times like these, is connected to how He allows us to be a part of the unfolding of life, good and bad. When man makes his hateful mark on this world, it is allowed, but that does not mean it is approved of by God. Each will stand accountable for what is done in this life.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NKJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
God is in ultimate control of creation, leading all ultimately to the point where the wheat will be separated from the chaff, as Scripture speaks of. When mankind’s actions are as they are today, we often blame God, when the hatred expressed began in a heart not centered upon God at all. When the heart is apart from God, it is ripe for destruction, be it for that person or for others around them. When the heart is centered upon Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, it stands for the ways of God. It opposes evil, and in that, God does work against what man has begun. I know that God’s love will be expressed in the days to come, and I see it starting with the worldwide prayer that is being lifted up for the people in France. Hopefully, the hearts of many will turn to God and His Word for direction and for ultimate passage away from such evil. The Bible tells us that Christ is the only way to the Father and, in Him, is true victory found:
John 14:6 (NKJV) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Revelation 21:4 (NKJV) ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (NKJV) When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this life, we have the ability to choose to follow God or not, to follow a path that would not lead to such things happening:
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NKJV) This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
At this time, pray hard for those who have lost their loved ones, but pray also for those whose hearts would lead them to do such things. They are not directed towards God, as their actions show, but it is likely that there will be others in the future who attempt such atrocities, be that in the immediate future or down the line. Just know that God did not cause these things; depraved hearts did. God has the deepest of love for all who’ve fallen, and that love was also poured out for those who will never accept it. He loved the attackers, whether they saw it or not, and He loves you. Pray for those who allowed themselves to do such things. Christ is the ultimate answer to these heart issues, I know it to be true. I hope you know it as well.
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