Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who's the Culprit?

Photo by Paul Copeland

The homes that were recently destroyed by tornadoes bring up the usual questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? Where was God? If God is loving, why did he allow this to happen? And so forth. But rarely does the mainstream media ask, why is there so much good in the world, when there are so many who are bad? Or more importantly, what is evil?

In the Christian community, either out of compassion or misguided theology we sometimes bypass the problem of evil by passing it along to things that are in themselves neither good nor evil. The tornadoes are evil, war is evil, hurricanes are evil, guns are evil, and on and on. But what is evil?

Is Wisdom Elusive?

What gives me more of handle on this subject is what Jesus says in his parable about the wise and foolish builders. The wise builder builds his house on solid rock. He digs deep in preparation long before he starts constructing his home. The foolish man chooses to build on sand. He found it easier to get his house up on this type of foundation. Eventually each man experiences a bad storm. The wise man goes through the storm with his house intact, while the foolish man's house suffers a total collapse. The point of the parable is not about houses, storms, or physical foundations. On the other hand, we need to understand these things to understand Jesus' point.

The problem wasn't the storm. In other words, the storm was doing what storms normally do. (We can discuss the effects of the fall for another time, but suffice it to say that the storm hit both men's houses with equal force.) The problem wasn't necessarily foundational, although the foundations were the reason one house stayed intact while the other fell. The problem Jesus' was revealing is that each man had the power to choose where he would build his home. And the avoidable disaster was a result of a poor choice.

If we choose to live in an area where hurricanes are frequented, or earthquakes are common, or tornadoes visit every so often, we should be prepared for their eventuality. If we don't know, that's another issue. But if we do know, and yet choose not to prepare, we cannot blame God, the weather, nor the government for our disaster. However, if we didn't know, nor are able to prepare, and yet we are living in the will of God, God promises to make it right in time (Romans 8:28, James 5:10-11).

This doesn't mean that people who know God and are loved by him will not experience rough times. (Ask me about my last two years.) It also doesn't mean that if we do everything right we won't experience tragedy. The point is that we have a choice before, during, and after times of trials and suffering, and that choice can determine what our future will become like. (Hebrews 12:7-13, Philippians 3:17-21)

In Jesus' parable about the wise and foolish builders his point was that people who are wise listen to him. Those who choose not to listen to him are foolish, and will suffer a great loss. Whatever we choose to build our lives upon we will all experience some sort of suffering. The issue is that we have the opportunity to choose between total collapse or weathering. Which way do we want to go?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Heading Towards…

There is an old fable by Aesop about a donkey and its owner.
As a donkey was trotting along with his owner along a high road, he suddenly started off and ran to the brink of a steep cliff. While the donkey attempted to proceed over the cliff, his owner seized him by the tail, trying to pull him back. When the donkey persisted in his effort, the man eventually let him go saying, "If you must insist, you shall do so at your own cost."
The moral of the story: A strong-willed beast must go his own way, even if it means his own destruction.

I can't tell you how many conversations I've experienced where people freely share strong opinions about things they don't understand. It seems like everyone has an opinion (especially in this election season). Everyone has a philosophy of life. Everyone believes they are right in their own eyes. But precious few ask the really important question: "What does God really think about this?" or better, "What has God said about this?" Like the stubborn donkey, we want to go our own way. (Proverbs 14:12)

To some degree more than a few do ask these questions. Unfortunately, it is often in light of one's preconceived notions about God and His Word. On hot-button issues such as abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, free speech, poverty, global warming, etc., we either come down firmly in one camp or the other. Some even choose to fall in-between. Many simply desire to be part of a tribe such as the right, left, moderate, African-American, activist, agnostic, religious, Christian, Muslim, etc. to feel a sense of safety. They will form their viewpoints based on their associations. Others, like the unreasoning donkey, will even use whatever feels right as guidance.

But none of that is the point.

Consider this. What if everyone is an object of God's wrath until they submit themselves to Christ? What if we are all enemies of God, until we become part of Christ's body on earth? What if all things are headed for sure destruction, except for those who believe? What if we are resisting God's rule, and all these issues are signs of our rebellion? What if our personal opinions are also a sign our rebellion against God? (Ephesians 2:1-5; 4:17-23; Proverbs 18:2)

Sometimes people make the mistake of prejudging the actions of God, by oversimplifying Jesus' mission. They conclude that since the motive of Jesus for coming was love, then what they believe about love is what is true about what Jesus did. In other words, many confuse what they believe Jesus did with what they believe about love. These people judge Jesus, God, and others by their own self-righteousness. They will decide what is right in their own eyes and make decisions about what is true as a result. (Unfortunately, they are unable to see that they are doing this.)

The time is now. We must decide for ourselves if we are going to settle of a half-conceived world-view. Who is willing to adjust what they believe is true, when God speaks? If we are determined to go our own way, God just might let us go saying, "If you insist, you shall do so at your own cost." (Romans 1:18-32)