In the past few weeks, it’s felt a little bit like the world has gone sort of crazy! Runners in Boston were bombed, a plant in Texas blew up, a building in Bangladesh simply collapsed, entire communities in the mid-west were being flooded, a doctor in our own state is on trial for unbelievably heinous crimes against newborn babies. And on and on the list goes. Many have heard the news and asked questions like: “Where was God?” “Why would a good God allow things like this?”
Peter, in the latter half of the first century, was asked similar questions by those first Christians as they were being rounded up by soldiers and then being persecuted… and killed… just because they believed in Jesus. They couldn’t understand why Jesus hadn’t come back to conquer the evil and take the Christians home to heaven. In 2 Peter 3:9 we read: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (NLT) God holds off the Day of Judgment because He’s still holding out the offer to repent for those who are still enemies of God.
Now-a-days is just the same. Every time something horrible happens, people still grapple with the questions of “Why?” and “What now?” In the gospel of Luke, Jesus is told about a horrible, heinous crime where the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, killed some Galileans as they brought their offerings to the Temple. Jesus doesn’t answer “Why?” but he DOES answer the question of “What do we do now?”
About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.“ —Luke 13:1-5 (NLT)
Back in Eden, Grandpa Adam and Grandma Eve knew only good and God protected them from knowing evil or experiencing its effects. They chose to believe Satan’s explanation of how deprived they were because God was protecting them from the knowledge of good AND evil… and so they took matters into their own hands and they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And all of their kids through the thousands of years ever since are regularly made to know the good AND the evil. We can thank our great-something or other grandparents for the inheritance… we get to know and feel the effects of evil.
So in God’s perfection, He protected us from experiencing and knowing evil… and we complained. Now we know evil too intimately!
That choice has already been made and there’s nothing we can do about whether or not we know evil. The one choice that remains is: Will we let evil remind us of our need for God? Will we repent and follow Him?
This is my pastor’s letter for the Clarks Mills UMC newsletter: The Flame (May 2013).