|Series Theme: Problem of Evil & Suffering|
Title: 3. A Workable Solution?
series that considers the problem of evil and suffering
In the first page we asked, “What is Evil” and saw that it is anything that causes wrong harm to us. We saw that the vast majority of harm to human beings is caused by human beings.
In the second page we faced the problem of asking God to do something about it.
One solution, to remove evil, would require Him to remove the free will of every one of us, turn us into robots - and we wouldn't want that!
Another solution would be to provide a set of rules for us to follow - but we're not good at keeping rules! We need some other alternative.
1. An Academic Problem?
Change only comes about when we face up to failure and are genuinely open to the possible solutions. If you are approaching the subject of evil out of purely academic interest, or because you're angry about something that hurt you in the past, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to DO something about the evil in the world, or will I just talk about it?”
2. Three Approaches
Now there are three ways you can go about this:
Solution 1: Do nothing
The fact that you have come this far and are still reading suggests that this just isn't an option for you. You are someone looking for answers and you don't want them to be just academic, things you keep in your head. This has got to work!
Solution 2: You can try to be good
The second approach, of 'doing good', is a possibility if you want to have a superficial solution. You can be a real help to people and Society, but it doesn't deal with that potential for evil within you, it just covers it up.
You can try very hard to be a 'nice guy' but actually you know that the real you sneaks out from time to time and deep down you're not the nice person you'd like everyone else to think you are. You'd really like to find a way of dealing with the unpleasant side of you that rears its ugly head from time to time.
Solution Three: The Christian Solution
3. God's Approach to our Problem
God DOESN'T expect you to be what you know you can't be. God doesn't want you to struggle with rules and regulations, trying to be religious or trying to be nice, becasue He knows that on your own you can't do any of those effectively. But the reality is He doesn';t even want you to be like any of those, effective or not. He has a better way of setting us free from our old 'self'. He does this in Stages:
Stage 1: Removal of Guilt
The penal system. that every country in the world has. declares that as human beings we believe bad people should be punished (see what you think about serial killers or paedophiles of whoever it is that upsets you).
But as we've seen previously 'bad' goes on a sliding scale with murderers at the top and so-called 'good people' at the bottom.
It may be that we do have genuinely serious wrongs we're covering up - crimes - but more likely we're just covering up what we're like on a bad day - self-centred, argumentative, verbally abusive, or whatever!
So where on the sliding scale do we say people shouldn't be punished, and why do we make that our cut-off point? Probably wherever it is that leaves us free!
No, deep down we feel guilty and guilt means punishment deserved. Imagine, after death, standing before an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect God. He knows exactly what we are like. He sees right through us. There's no hiding anything. We're like small children caught in the act. We're in for trouble!
But supposing He says to us now, it doesn't have to be like that.
Supposing He says, "I'll forgive you on the condition you let me love you, guide you, help you for the rest of your life."
You'd probably say, "What's the catch?”
"There isn't one."
You might say, “So what about justice, what about all I feel about my guilt and deserving punishment?”
Supposing He says, "That's all right someone else has already taken your punishment, you can be free. It just requires you to believe it."
You might say, “How can that be?”
He replies, "It just is. My Son, Jesus Christ, took all your punishment when he died unjustly on the Cross nearly two thousand years ago in your time. All you have to do is believe that and I'll forgive you and you'll never again have to fear facing me."
That sounds too good to be true, but that's how it is.
Stage 2: Adopted as a Child of God
When the wonder of that sinks in, we realise we no longer have to live a life of trying to achieve, trying to reach certain standards, trying to be religious or whatever else it was we were doing previously.
Suddenly instead of struggling to achieve self worth - we‘ve been given it! We ARE now somebody, and that's a tremendous release, but please realise you'll never feel that until you have genuinely gone through stage 1 above.
Stage 3: A New Power Source
We don't lose control, we don't have any weird or spooky feelings or experiences, we just suddenly find that there is a power there that transforms.
One lady in her late fifties, who had smoked throughout her life and had the most terrible bronchial cough, simply came to God as we've described above, received forgiveness, received the sense of being His child and suddenly found she no longer had any desire to smoke. Not only that her cough completely disappeared and never returned. That's an example of the power that God imparts.
But it's more than that, suddenly as we pray and exercise this new relationship we find guidance comes, wisdom comes, an enabling to cope, a sense of purpose and direction. This is what being a Christian is all about.
Not about trying to be good, not about being religious, not about trying to be pious or whatever; it's about having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ which brings the transformation.
Christians are what they are not because they're good, but because they realised they weren't and went to God in surrender and received His love and power.
4. Holy Joes?
I thought this was all about dealing with evil, not about creating 'Holy Joes'? That's right it is. But what did we say happened in these three stages above?
The person in question gets released from guilt and is freed to live without constantly focusing on failure. They take on a new basis for self-worth and feel good about themselves, and are freed to start to become the person they were designed to be.
They receive a new power source and find they are being released (sometimes immediately, sometimes gradually) from the things that tied them down in the past, their failures.
As this takes place, they frequently find a new concern for other people. Thus it is that in history, most of the great reform movements - in education, in health, in employment, in prisons - were initiated by Christians.
As the Bible says, “Overcome evil with good.”
We've accepted that trying to follow the rules just doesn't work. What the Bible reveals is God's method of helping us change.
Instead of imposing change upon us, instead of bringing heavy authority to bear, He brings His love to us with the possibility of our receiving forgiveness, receiving identity in eternity, receiving a new power and purpose. He wins our heart with His love!
It's not a struggle to love when you are loved, it's a joy. We change more when we are loved than in any other way, and that's what God offers us - His love, in tangible, practical, down to earth, everyday terms.
Yes, evil is still there in the world and will continue there until we die and go to face Him, but instead of passively accepting it we can speak against it (with honesty and integrity) and work against it.
If we do that on our own we find increasing frustration, but if we do it as forgiven children of God with His empowering and His directing, we find a new sense of fulfilment and achievement.
God won't make us conform, He won't make people nice, to stop evil, but He reaches out a hand and offers His transforming love and power to whoever will receive it so that they will be transformed from the inside out and, like the Bible says, “overcome evil with good.”