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Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Irony of Good and Evil

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

After a tragedy I sometimes ask, “If God is of love and is in control, how could this have happened?” From this point of view of pain and loss, it is easy to see God as a mindless thug. If he is in control of man within nature, how could this storm have occurred, or this accident/illness, or this homicide?

In response to this question I begin by asking what I frequently ask when I find myself more concerned with the role of others rather than myself—the question for me is how can I (rather than someone else) help redeem the situation? What should I pray? What should I do? How can I help? It is always too easy and more justifying to ask what role God (or others) should play rather than asking what helpful role I can play? Stepping back, I ask what redeeming role would God have mankind at large play?

Yet, due to my conviction that life must make some rational sense, I go a step further and consider God’s role after human conflagrations of evil. Because God lovingly imbued man with dignity and honor, he did not make him a robot, but endowed him with a window of discretion and will. Because man is too often short-sighted, God’s role is to redeem his divine purpose through mop-up operations necessitated by the pollution of man. This was the Savior’s principle role. Jesus’s ministry on earth was to head up a mop-up operation in the aftermath of human evil. He came as a light unto the world to dissipate self-delusions and to provide thereafter the Holy Spirit as comforter and counselor. Too often mankind finds itself in a garbage dump of its own making, and Jesus comes as a humble worker sorting through the garbage to find and redeem that which is good.

That still leaves the issue of natural disasters. While I do not go so far as to hold that God is a clock maker who designed and created the universe then set it ticking never to intervene again. I nevertheless hold that in the nature of things some discomfort is unavoidable. For example, living in Florida I greatly wish that hurricanes were unnecessary. Yet it is clear to me that if hurricanes were cavalierly stopped, there would no doubt be hurtful implications somewhere down the line. That is, I think even God confronts a type of dilemma that is no stranger to mankind—since there is no ideal outcome, how can the pain be most minimized. It is completely tenable to me that a loving God even while in complete control does not always have easy and painless choices. The prime example is that of giving man discretion when robotics would have been in some ways more satisfying—however incompatible this would have been with the nature of God’s love.

Richard Cory
--by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

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