On Sunday the 9th April, we reflected on some sitreps from church family members and celebrated what God was revealing to us collectively. For our deeper reflection, we started exploring more closely WHY God wasn’t yet fully revealed and why the rule of darkness continues; in effect, what it means to dwell ON the earth amidst what Paul refers to as ‘the groaning creation’.
When the 2 questions ‘Why did God cause OR allow this? get asked (as they often do, especially during weeks that host events like ‘Cyclone Debbie’), perhaps we should think about whether these questions start from the right premise? If there are no disasters or tragedies in heaven and the culture of heaven is what God sent Jesus to bring us back to, why do we think that God is responsible for all the bad that happens on the earth? The answers become clearer indeed when you start from ‘Worldview # 1’ and not ‘Worldview # 2’ (see previous posts for descriptions)
The challenge of the answers that Worldview # 1 offers is that to get the clearest understanding, one needs to have heart surgery as an outworking of a personal and relational engagement with Jesus like Peter did in Matthew 16. The idea that God alone is responsible for all the bad that happens is simply unbiblical BUT without a relationship with God where truth can be revealed, our so called logical and reasoned human thinking always assumes it knows enough and this limits our discovery options.
To deal with the ‘problem of evil’ OR the ‘goliath of unbelief’ with any integrity, we must seek fresh biblical revelation and avoid our propensity to trawl through the Old Testament isolating references and ignoring the new covenant. Dwelling in the revelation Christ has brought helps us resist baseless arguments created by religion. It helps us keep fighting the good fight that the apostle Paul fought all through the New Testament; to keep Christ central and all sufficient.
So, starting where Paul finished and using Romans chapter 8 (context Chapter 7 through 8), if creation groans for the restoration of the children of God to their proper place so that creation itself will be set free from bondage, decay and violence, then surely a peaceful and merciful existence as it is in heaven and as it was in the beginning, will be the result. We can cross reference this truth with Jesus words and actions in the following for example. (Mark 4:39; Luke 13:4-16). This is consistent with the eternal promise of heaven.
What if violence, evil, even sickness and so called “natural” disasters or “Acts of God” were understood as the result of the corruption of CREATION and not the Creator? In other words, what if we humans (and the angels) whom God entrusted with the creation in the first place, have fouled it up simply because we rejected living by God’s word and decided in our own wisdom that God’s best for us could be challenged by our alternative knowledge.
So, rather than simply take control of the gift back and allow this to cycle and happen all over again like the mum who gives her child a gift which is subsequently thrown down the stairs then returned with the question ‘Why is it broken mummy?’, God has seen fit to transform us IN CHRIST, into people WORTHY AND EQUIPPED for the honour of ruling mercifully over the earth. (Rom. 8:18-19, that is, revealed IN US). The task of his church might then be to cooperate with God in that transformation process (add verse 23).
This is why we need to defer to Jesus because it will enable us to understand what God IS actually saying to us about the problem of evil. The world we live in has become a sinful world. Sin and therefore suffering are part of the nature of this world. It is a world that has been messed up by generations of human sin. Sin happens and unjust suffering happens.
Jesus calls on us to understand that these things that happen are an example of things indicative of a sinful world BUT he also challenges us NOT to assume (as we are want to do) that the reason for some specific tragedies and disasters is in some way related to some people being worse sinners than some others.
NOT AT ALL. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHY DWELLING IN THE REVELATION CHRIST HAS BROUGHT AND NOT OUR OWN WISDOM IS IMPERATIVE TO OUR UNDERSTANDING. We’ll talk about this ‘blaming’ issue soon. Meanwhile we should ponder this. It does no one any good to blame God for what we have mis-managed or broken.
This week, read from Romans 7:7 to the end of Chapter 8 and journal prayerfully any light that goes on for you at any point of Paul’s theological reflection.
Now, think about how you have responded previously to anyone who has asked you a question like, ‘Why did God cause or even allow this to happen?’
Finally, compare/contrast your responses to any revelation you received whilst reading Romans 7 and 8 and seek to hear more from God about being an even better ambassador for Christ in your family, neighbourhood, work and or community involvement contexts. As always, and if you feel comfortable, share your discoveries with someone over a cuppa and see if together you can think of how church life could adapt to represent more of this.
Extra Individual Response or Group Questions
1. Is the idea about ‘dwelling in the revelation Christ has brought’ useful to getting clarity for things you have questions about or not? Think about the journey of re-engaging widely held truths that we’ve been on for a while now. Have any of your previously held notions been challenged during these reflections? Recall these things or discuss if you have opportunity with one or two others.
2. Is Graeme’s shared image about ‘Heaven’s Embassy’ starting to get any traction for you? Have you ever thought about the church in this way before? Is it a practical image? Have a chat with another church family member and compare thoughts.
Romans 7 & 8; Genesis 3: 4-5; Matthew 16: 13-20; Mark 4: 35-41; Luke 13: 4-17