Okay, our Youth Group took judging our 4th, Annual Chili Cook-Off this weekend far more seriously (and less seriously) than we ever would have dreamed. I mean, they carefully tasted every one of the 14 pots of chili that people brought in, filled out judging forms and explained their criteria, and took an extended time doing it. Now, some of their judging criteria included “I didn’t like the crock pot that the cook used” or “I liked the pink ladle” but hey, at least they’d thought it through. But to be honest, I was genuinely surprised at how good all of the chili was this year -- everyone took a different take on what a good pot of chili is like, but everyone did a great job of realizing their visions. Thank you for those who took part!
We also began a minimester in Adult Sunday School, looking at the Holy Spirit. A number of people have asked me about Him over the past couple of weeks, so it made sense to stop and take a good, Biblical look at the Person of the Trinity that most of us have the most trouble connecting with -- which is ironic, when you think about how our relationship with the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture. Please consider joining us for the class, if you can make it.
In our message this week, we finished up our series looking at “When God Misbehaves,” and the rationales that people give for why they struggle to follow a God who ___________. This week, we tied all of the previous weeks together by looking at how we as Christians can approach an answer the “Problem of Evil” -- when people say that they can’t believe in a loving, omnipotent God who would still permit pain and suffering and evil to continue in the world.
There are lots of ways to address the problem, of course -- from looking at free will to recognizing that what we mean by “evil” isn’t usually “stuff that’s wrong” (since pretty much this whole place is “wrong” -- i.e.; not what God intended for it to be -- and that we’re personally fine with the vast majority of broken stuff that we enjoy in life remaining more or less the same), but rather by “evil,” we generally mean the egregious stuff that we personally just really don’t like. But when you realize that “evil” includes all of us normal, non-“villainous” sinners in life, then we can begin to appreciate how Peter answered this problem in 2 Peter 3:9-15 -- that God isn’t turning a blind eye to evil, but instead is being patient because He wants to save as many of us from our sins as possible.
See, rather than just wiping out the whole lot of us “evil” sinners (which is, technically, what people are asking God to do without realizing it when they ask, “Why doesn’t God just abolish evil?”), we’re told in Scripture that “God so loved the world that... while we were still sinners, Christ died for us... the righteous for the unrighteous... who gave himself as a ransom for all... so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone... He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” -- which means that “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance...”
Rather than just “abolish evil,” God chose to shed His own blood to save those who are evil and change us into those who are good, to purchase our adoption into His own family and to wash us clean from our own sinful choices. He chose salvation over abolition.
So the truth is, when we ask, “Why doesn’t God just abolish evil?” we really mean either only the evils that we want Him to abolish (which would be totally arbitrary on our part), or that we really do want Him to get rid of every evil... which would include wiping all of us from the face of the Earth. Which means that the ironic answer to the question, “How could a loving God allow evil to continue?” is precisely that He is so loving that He loves even evil people like you and me, and wants to love us throughout eternity.
To whom can you tell that Good News today?