First United Methodist Church, Lewistown, PA 17044  ~  717-248-4618   ~  fumc200@outlook.com

Answering the questions.

January 7, 2017

    Another day, another act of violence. Whether it is assault in Chicago, murder in Florida, or abuse in Pennsylvania, the beat of evil's drum continues to provide cadence for chaos and outrage.

A segment of humanity is horrified. Questions abound.

* Why is there so much hate and anger?

* Why does God allow so many tragedies?

* When will these terrible things stop occurring?

* When will peace hover over our world?

* Why doesn't God do something?

Generally speaking, this segment does not have a growing understanding of scripture and their theology is often built upon daily horoscopes and an absent God. Their theology is anemic in its understanding of God's nature.

    While another segment of humanity understands human nature and the nature of sin. They too ask many of the probing questions listed above. Yet, they also know the world we live in is drastically different than the one introduced to Adam and Eve in Genesis. On a whim, this morning I did a word search in my Bible software. I searched the word 'evil' and to my surprise was offered 435 hits. Yes, I said 435 hits!  (An aside) Conversely, I searched the inversion of 'evil' which is 'live' and received 617 hits. Not sure where I was going with that "aside" but anyways......

    I remember the first time back in the late 70s when I heard the term 'hate crime' and wondered, "Isn't all crime a form of hate toward somebody or some people group?" To label one crime a "hate crime" and another crime an "act by misguided people" is bordering on lunacy.  Lately, I have even heard government leaders and news media outlets shy away from using the word 'evil' in reference to the crimes being committed in our nation and world. For better or worse, the world has been in decay since that tragic day in the Garden of Eden when a choice to disobey occurred (Genesis 3:6). Not long after that event, the first murder occurred and life as God intended changed complexion (Genesis 4:8).

    I don't want you to think I have adopted a "laissez-faire" approach to violence in our world. I grieve every time another horrid event unfolds. I pray for the victims and wonder about law enforcement trying to keep peace as they serve and protect.  At the same time I don't want you to miss the condition of our world. We are messed up.  Our earth and the humanity on it as described in Romans has been groaning for a long time.

    "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:18-25, NIV)

    Students of the Bible, those who glean knowledge of God's nature, and women and men who trust in the divine promises of scripture look differently at sin, evil, crime, and seemingly senseless acts of violence. A deeper understanding permeates their view of the world. They realize evil is born out of temptation and temptation out of Satan's desire to crush humanity. Yes, that means there is a devil (can't spell devil without the word 'evil') and a battle for the souls of humans rages on everyday between God and the devil.

    Understanding the story unfolding from Genesis to Revelation is the first place to build a worldview that has to include evil, sin, hate, and violence.  That worldview must also include a God that is not absent and does not live and work in daily horoscopes. Somewhere along the way, we have lost sight of God's sovereignty. God does not miss tragedies and fail to stop them. God allows free will to 'live' in humanity and desires that we obey. We generally do not. When we don't 'live' according to God's design and will, then 'evil' appears and the condition of the world grows a bit more dim.

    Praise God for Jesus Christ who was sent to set the captives free, to bring sight to the blind and to preach the Good News to the poor. In Christ alone, we have one who will return in power and bring peace to this darkened earth (Isaiah 9:6;  John 14:27; Revelation 22:7). He will defeat the forces of evil and once for all answer our questions:

* Why is there so much hate and anger?

* Why does God allow so many tragedies?

* When will these terrible things stop occurring?

* When will peace hover over our world?

* Why doesn't God do something?

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