Greetings friends! A few weeks ago I did a sermon where I asked for questions, and attempted to answer them all. We were so overwhelmed with good questions that they didn't fit into the sermon, so every Wednesday I'll be picking up some of the leftovers and sharing some thoughts here on the blog. If these questions spark further questions, or if you just have something nagging at you, please leave a comment below and we'll save that for another post!
If you think that we'll be able to cover this entire topic in one sitting, you're crazy! This is a huge question, which has huge ramifications for how we live and interact with the world. It might be the biggest thing to keep people away from the faith. Here is the original question that didn't make the sermon:
Let's break the question down to as many parts as we can.
First, some might question the phrase "loving God" in light of all the darkness like 9 people getting shot at a Bible study. The cheap easy way to get through all of that would be to quote the countless scriptures that make clear that God loves God's people. If the biblical witness is to be believed and counted as authoritative, then indeed there can be no question that God loves his people. There can be no question that though we deserve death, Jesus Christ came as God in the Flesh and gave his life in our stead, so that we could be raised up on the last day. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
What we might want to question is how we interpret God's love for us. If by understanding God as a loving God we mean that God will break through our sin and bring us from death to life, we've nailed it. If we mean that God is going to give us everything we want, then we're missing something. I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that my mother loved me, and that love included several temper tantrums at the toy store when I was informed that I couldn't get the toy that I really wanted.
This is not to separate love from not getting what we want. If my mom gave me every toy I cried over in the store, chances are that I would have turned into a more selfish jerk than I already am. Her refusal to give me what I want was actually a sign of loving me.
But still, the question remains. If God is all powerful (not part of the question, but let's go with it) and he has a heart for his people, then how could it be that he would allow things like the tragedy in South Carolina to stand?
Before we go any farther, it should be noted that absolutely no answer available to us in these moments will comfort or console those who are going through tragedy. These answers ring hollow, because truthfully I don't know the answers. Neither does anyone else. All we can do is try to make sense of things in our own way.
For me, the shooting comes down to the answer that there is still sin in the world. This young man might be the clearest example of a mind clouded with sin. In his head, people of color weren't really people at all, and he decided to take action. Even the smallest sin dehumanizes people. This young man did not recognize the humanity of his brothers and sisters, and it led to tragedy.
So while these events seem hopeless, I wonder what God asks our reaction to be? I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that as a loving God the events in South Carolina break God's heart every time they happen around the world. I am equally certain that God's heart is broken when we refused to recognize the humanity in our neighbors at work or school our next door. So for me at least, tragedies like this make me want to celebrate the humanity of others. It makes me want to lift others up, to help those in need, to care for the sick, to visit with the lonely. It makes me want to ask people making racist comments to stop and to tell them why. I may not be able to solve systemic racism and oppression, but I can try to recognize the humanity in others.
More questions to come next week! Stay tuned!