CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Causes of Evil
And Three Ways Grace Frees us
By Christopher Schwinger
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Continued from Page One
Evil and Pain
Pain is a much bigger reason for people being opposed to God than ignorance. It also was the great test which Jesus passed in His Passion. Selfishness (the sin nature we're born with) is the reason many people ignore the Gospel when it's presented to them when they feel satisfied already without it. Ignorance is something even Jesus had until He was taught the Old Testament as He grew up, but He didn't have the ability to sin, so it was a non-issue. But He did have the ability to suffer, and pain was the most meaningful challenge He overcame. God created the world, foreknowing what He'd later endure in His Passion. He gave mankind a special kind of individuality and choice which would make relationships meaningful, even though He knew only a small percentage of people would have that relationship. The pain which Jesus endured in Gethsemane was, in my opinion, the hardest part, emotionally speaking (not physically, which came at the scourging and crucifixion), because He kept resisting the urge to escape before the events would unfold. The discipline He showed has been an inspiration to me no matter how tough my own emotional struggles with God's silence are.
None of these three causes of evil are "easy" to overcome, because it takes discipline to become proactively educated, to start thinking like Jesus did about spiritual values (instead of selfishly), and to overcome doubts about God in the midst of pain. I think pain is the hardest to overcome, though, based on personal experience. It is also the one Jesus faced which makes it more meaningful to me. A combination of these three factors (selfishness, ignorance, and pain) is behind any faith struggle. Christian apologists such as Gary Habermas, who are frequently debating skeptics, have concluded that it's mainly emotional factors which keep those skeptics from believing. A lot of the famous atheist skeptics had struggles with personal pain relating to parents, and C. S. Lewis became an atheist more because of his mom dying and dad responding angrily to it than even because of the carnage of WWI. As I learned on a fantastic PBS documentary called The Question of God, which compares Lewis to Freud, Lewis's father threatened to close house and send the kids to America after his wife died. C. S. Lewis would wake up in the night and fear that his dad and brother had gone off to America without him. It was that fear of abandonment which made it incredibly hard for Lewis to find faith later.
The next time you, or I, are involved in a conversation with someone about faith, be sure to remember these factors. Sometimes the logically-minded people who specialize in apologetics think it's about dismantling Darwin and proving the infallibility of the Bible, and that's probably the best way to deal with large groups. Personal pain is frequently concealed when a person gives reasons for why he/she doesn't believe in God, but it's often a factor still. The reason people call themselves "spiritual" but "lapsed churchgoers" is often personal pain with the church in the past. Not that this is always a legitimate excuse, since no one is perfect, including themselves or other churchgoers, but it needs to be considered when we talk to them.
Evangelism requires a lot of thoughtfulness and patience. Over time, I've become more sympathetic than I even already was (and I always have been) to those people who try to live decent lives but don't know about the amazing grace of God. It's not something we have to beat ourselves up about when we don't talk about it frequently, but it's something we should feel a longing to share about, and a readiness to open up about. And we should never assume that it's just because the person willfully rejects God until we get to know that person in depth. Sometimes people who have anti-God sentiments, like some of the things Ted Turner has said, are speaking about God as if He's like their human authorities who hurt them. We define God by how our human authorities were until His Spirit helps supersede that in our hearts, which can take a long time. Just as the journey away from selfishness, ignorance, or pain is never entirely complete, we will continue to struggle until we meet Him in heaven with our perception of God. But the beauty of it is that as ignorance gives way to knowledge, selfishness gives way to kindness, and pain gives way to freedom, we become literally unshackled and don't have to define ourselves by our struggles. We instead look for the meaning God has already given us, the truth of God which is outside of us but perceptible to us, rather than seeking to redefine ourselves to escape from agony. This is what makes grace amazing.
Image Credit: Pexels; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Christian-Life | Controversial-Issues | God-Father | Hardships | Sin-Evil
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Published on 4-24-17