Summary: First in a series based on questions that we received from people in the Church. This message deals with the question of the morality suffering
Question to be asked: I’m a bit confused. Why does everyone just say that God is good and ignore some of things He seems to approve? He lets evil and suffering go on in the world. He ordered a lot of people to be killed. And then there’s the whole concept of hell. Why would a God who is good do those things?
I’m glad you asked that. I really am! Each week, for January and February, we’re going to be dealing with your questions. Remember, we asked you for questions around Christmastime.
You may recognize the Peanuts motif that our creative worship team came up with.
Lucy VanPelt. Lucy runs a 5 cent psychiatry booth, where she waits to answer peoples’ questions about life. Part of the humor of Lucy’s booth is that Lucy, of all the Peanuts characters, seems to struggle the most when it comes to helping people with anything. She’s a self-proclaimed crab and always mistreating her brother Linus and friend Charlie Brown.
So, this booth is fitting. The fact is, no one can adequately begin to answer some of the questions we’re going to plow through. My goal is to point us to God’s word and for you to leave saying, “I’m going to look into this more this week.”
The questions we’re dealing with today are turned to probably more than any others when it comes to keeping at a distance from God.
Why does God allow suffering?
We live in a world filled with suffering. In just the US every year there are some 10,000 violent thunderstorms, 5,000 floods of varying sizes, 1,000 tornadoes, and about 6 hurricanes.
11 people were killed yesterday in the bad weather that stretched across the Midwest and South. Puerto Rico was hit by another earthquake. This past week, we’re told, the bushfires in Australia have resulted in the death of over 1 billion animals. That’s just the past few days.
Over the past year, we’ve said goodbye to loved ones here. Others have dealt with diseases and injuries. Those are the experiences that are recent and close to home. There have been some 6,000 years of human history full of such things, all over the world.
That doesn’t address the things that people do to other people - like when a commercial airliner is accidently shot out of the sky. Innocent people suffer from all this. Why does God allow that to happen? Why does He seem passive about it?
But, He’s not passive, is He? No, in the OT especially, God orders people to be put to death - capital punishment for those who commit capital offenses, but also judicial killings of entire cities of people - men, women, children. That sounds extreme, but remember that doesn’t even compare to a worldwide flood that killed every human, except for Noah and his family. God didn’t just allow this to happen. He enacted it. How could He do that and be good?
There’s more. The Lord tells us that the payment for sin is death - that most people won’t find the road to Heaven. That means that most people will spend eternity in Hell, in punishment. Yes, it’s a real place. Jesus describes it as a place of darkness, outside the Kingdom, away from the Lord, a place where the fire never goes out and the worm doesn’t die; where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:41-42 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:49-50 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mark 9:48 …where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
Matthew 25:30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
God doesn’t apologize for Hell, and we shouldn’t apologize for teaching about Hell or try to explain it away.
But how can God be good and holy and loving in light of all of that?
The same Bible that tells us about the flood, and the destruction of Canaanite cities, and Hell can help us find answers. There are helps there…
1. The nature of God
We need to be sure that our understanding of God is driven by truth, rather than just some form of a god that we have fashioned for ourselves.
Hanging over our front door at home is the beginning of the prayer that devout Jews recited and still recite every day, taken from Deuteronomy 6: