Where is God?

[Here’s a brief article I wrote for Good Shepherd on the events of this week]

Its been a horrible week. First the Boston Marathon bombings, then the ricin mailings, on Wednesday the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, andwhere is god just this morning a running battle between terrorists and police on the streets of Watertown.

Following the news of the Boston Marathon bombing on Twitter, I read one celebrity (I think it was Justin Beiber, but can’t remember) tweet, “I think I’ve just lost faith in humanity.”

I hope that is not true for you.

Christians really shouldn’t ever lose faith in humanity since we don’t put our faith in humanity. The world is a mad, chaotic place and it has been ever since human beings turned away from the God who made all things and who, in Jesus of Nazareth, came to restore all things. As John puts it:

“This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”(John 3:19)

People love darkness. The one who makes that judgment is Jesus himself. It explains a lot about our world and our history and the events of this week. We should not be surprised when people do awful things. Nor should we be surprised when awful things happen.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable about a young son who asked his father if he might receive his inheritance early, before his father had actually died. In that culture to ask for such a thing was a grave insult but the father nevertheless agreed.

The son took the money and travelled far away. In no time he’d spent his entire inheritance on wild living. Soon he was destitute, reduced to feeding pigs for hire. He was so impoverished and so hungry, Jesus said, that he craved the food he was feeding the pigs.

His hunger, his poverty, the turmoil of his life – all consequences of his decision to leave his father’s house.

In the same way the world, turning from the God who created us, has also been reduced to a sad and sorry state. The world loves the darkness and God has handed the world over to its loves. He’s given us our inheritance and let us go off into a far country.

Disaster, death, terror, and sorrow are the consequences.

The larger question, and one that is asked frequently, is why God hasn’t put a stop to it?

There are a number of good biblical answers to that question but here’s the briefest: God is patient and merciful with his human creatures. If today God were to eradicate darkness from the world it would mean everlasting torment for those who love and embrace it. Were he to remove the cause of death, pain, sorrow, despair and tragedy from the face of the earth, it would mean removing sinners from the face of the earth.

God is a just and holy God so he will not hold back his hand forever. There will be a time when will act and evil will be banished along with those who love it.

But God loves sinners.

And now is the time of mercy and salvation. God is waiting patiently, holding back his hand, in order to gather all who will turn from the darkness and come into the light. So for a little while the darkness endures. But only a little while.

God became human in the man Jesus Christ. He lived a sinless life. He died in the place of sinners. He rose on the Third day. He ascended into heaven. By enduring the punishment for our sins, by living a righteous life on our behalf, God made it possible for the prodigal sons to come home.  And as John writes:

“…to all who receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”(John 1:12-13)

For those of us who have been brought into the household of God, the darkness in our hearts that we used to love is being overwhelmed by the light of Christ who lives in us. The present darkness in the world continues but it too, one day, will be completely overthrown. John describes that day in Revelation 21:1-5 and I’ll close with his words:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

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