Friday, December 06, 2013

Why Does God Allow Evil to Persist?

This may be one of the hardest questions that we all face at some point in our lives. It is true for both Christians and non-Christians as well. We look around at the world and wonder why things are so bad at times. It seems pretty obvious that things are not as good as we would like them or as we think they should be. And that can lead to one of the all time hardest and most pointed question that Christians will face from non-Christians.

The question can be sincere and come at a time of struggling to make sense of personal or even global tragedy. We can look at the senseless killing and violence in the world; the untimely death of a loved one; the injustice perpetrated on one group of people by another; the high death count found in a natural disaster and earnestly seek to understand why these things happen.

Sometimes the question can be very pointed–even accusatory–and come out of great bitterness when looking at the personal consequences of these events.
And still other times the question can be very judgmental and meant to put those that believe in a God like the Christian God in their place.
"If your God is so good, all knowing and all powerful then why doesn't he do something about all these bad things that keep happening?"
And that is a fair question.

I have touched on this question before and that post has a number of good links to help make sense of the problem. But I came across an answer this morning as I was reading Romans 2 that I had not noticed before. Let me be clear that this answer is not meant to be a complete answer. It doesn't really address the natural disaster or illness aspect of the question. Rather it gets at why God allows evil people to commit evil seemingly without immediate consequences.
Paul starts off chapter 2 of Romans by saying in verse 1:
"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you the judge, practice the very same things."
Paul ended chapter 1 by making the point that when we give up worshiping God we end up doing a whole bunch of evil things which he lists:
  • Unrighteousness
  • Evil
  • Covetousness
  • Malice
  • Envy
  • Murder
  • Strife
  • Deceit
  • Maliciousness
  • Gossips
  • Slanderers
  • Haters of God
  • Insolent
  • Haughty
  • Boastful
  • Inventors of evil
  • Disobedient to parents
  • Foolish
  • Faithless
  • Heartless
  • Ruthless
That is quite a list and Paul's point is that we cannot condemn those actions in others without also condemning ourselves. We have to be honest about our own shortcomings which is one of the major points of Christianity. Here is where Paul offers us a brief glimpse at why God allows evil to persist. In Romans 2:3-4 Paul says:
"Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?"
Paul is telling us that God doesn't immediately punish evil because he wants us to repent. He is giving us a second...third...fourth...fifth...sixth...hundredth...thousandth...(you get the point) chance. God is giving us the opportunity of our whole lives to repent and unfortunately that means allowing some fairly serious evil to happen in this world.

But that isn't the end of the story.

Paul tells us in Romans 2:5 that God is keeping track of what is happening:
"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteousness will be revealed."
There is coming a day when all those evil acts will have to be accounted for. There is coming a day when all those that thought they were getting away with doing these things are going to find out that they didn't really get away with it.
This means that none of us are getting away with anything.
The only thing we can do is understand that God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. We have to honestly admit to God that we have all done things that we know are wrong and that we understand that we deserve to be punished for those things. And this is where Christ comes in. He took on that punishment for us and all we have to do accept his offer of forgiveness. I explain this in more detail here.

So in Romans 2:4 Paul is offering us a glimpse at the answer of the question of why God allows evil to persist. He does so in order to offer us a chance at repentance and forgiveness.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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