Several years ago, there was a book that came out which was all the rage for a while. It was When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, and his final conclusion was that God isn't really omnipotent, that he really doesn’t have control over everything, and that although he'd love to prevent all the suffering in the world, he physically can’t. I have a serious problem with that, since the Bible clearly says that he's capable of anything he desires. And I have another problem, and it’s with the title itself. There is a sense in which there are “good” people in a relative way. To say that there's no moral distinction between Mother Theresa and Hitler is nonsense, and the Bible doesn’t teach that. Even the first couple of chapters of Job make no sense if God couldn’t make any distinction between Job and the rest of humanity when he pronounced his initial verdict on the man’s lifestyle.
But the Bible clearly teaches that in an absolute sense there's no such thing as a “good” person. If I compare myself with Hitler, I come out looking pretty good. When I compare myself with Jesus, however, not so much. Unfortunately, God’s standard is not “better than Hitler.” His standard is his Son. His standard is perfection. His standard is to love him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Would anyone care to claim that they do that all the time? Any hands raised?
Over the next few days we’re going to discuss all the different reasons why there's suffering in this world, but you could argue that sin is the root of all of it. We were created to live in perfect harmony in a perfect world with a perfect God, and we screwed it up. We had work before the Fall, but it was supposed to be all pleasant work and activity. The “thorns and thistles” in today's reading tell us that sin doesn't introduce work, but futility and frustration to our work. We were created to live forever, and now the grave is our destiny.
As my pastor once pointed out, you’ve never physically seen anything not tainted by sin in some degree. You’ve never seen a person, a family, a church, a business, a government, or a nation not tainted by sin. It’s infected everything around us, and we live and breathe in it so much we don’t even notice it. Just like fish would have no word for “water” because it’s all they know, all we know is a sin-wrecked world.
But as Pogo once put it, “We have met the enemy and the enemy is us.” I can blame our first parents all I’d like, but my greatest problem is me. When I decide to disobey my Father, I add to the problems in this world. The good news is that God isn’t done with this world yet, and he’s not done with me. Both of us are works in progress, and when he completes his work on us, we’ll both be works of art, true masterpieces.
Lord Jesus, I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Please change me. I want to hate nothing but sin and love nothing but you.
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