Why does God allow evil to happen?
Away from the discussions about gun control, far from the debates about whether Wednesday night’s senseless shooting in Charleston was religiously or racially motivated lies one question: “Why did God let it happen at all?” Why would an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God allow an armed man to walk in to a Wednesday night prayer meeting, sit there for an hour and then start opening fire? Honestly, if there’s any group of people who’s backs God should have, it’s got to be Christians meeting to pray right? So why did it happen? Why is a nation in mourning?
Because God must not exist.
At least that’s the easy answer. Humanity is chaotic, and people are left to sin unchecked, unpunished. Where is the justice? Where is this almighty God who meets out justice we all keep hearing about? These are some of the questions and answers I’ve heard from some friends of mine over the last day. How do we reconcile an all powerful God with evil that goes unpunished.
One of my favourite stories in the Old Testament is the story of Uzzah. For the unfamiliar, Uzzah’s story can be found in 2 Samuel 6:3-8 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-11. Uzzah was a Levite, a member of a religious order, and was one of a number of men charged with moving the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was on a cart being driven by oxen. When one of them stumbled, Uzzah tried to save the Ark from falling to the ground by catching the thing with his hands, which was forbidden (Numbers 4:15). God punishes Uzzah for his sin by killing him on the spot.
That escalated quickly.
So how do we reconcile the God who kills Uzzah for a comparatively (on the surface at least) minor offence than the one we woke up to read about on Thursday morning? If God could punish Uzzah, why couldn’t he stop the Charleston shooting? The answer dawned on me late Thursday night and stopped me in my tracks.
Do you ever notice that God becomes a whole lot less vengeful in the New Testament? I mean, the persecution that the original apostles all faced during the first century does bear some similarities to the carnage of the Charleston shooting: Christians died while gathering as the church. So why didn’t God stop it? Where’s the punishment? Where’s the double jeopardy?
On the cross.
The reason God suddenly becomes less vengeful after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is because on that cross, Jesus accepted all of the punishment for all of the sins. Ever.
On the cross, Jesus accepted the punishment for the Charleston shooting. And I’m thankful He did. At its core the Charleston shooting illustrates something fundamental to believers. We don’t really want justice. At least, not God’s justice. If God decided to exercise His justice, yes, the shooter would be dead, but so would I, and so would you. The quote is attributed to so many people, I don’t know who said it first, but it bears repeating: “Each and every breath you take is an unmitigated act of mercy on God’s part.” I deserve to die because I have failed to live up to the standard of perfection God demands. Thankfully, I am no worse that any human who has ever lived, unfortunately, neither am I any better. I am eternally grateful that Jesus accepted the punishment I was owed. That’s why God tolerates evil today, because if he didn’t, we’d all be dead.
In Philippians 1:21, the apostle Paul says that our life is for Christ and death is “gain” is better than life. While the circumstances and events of Wednesday night are tragic, and horrific, those of us who believe can’t ignore the fact that those nine saints are in the presence of the Lord and more thankful than ever for Jesus’ sacrifice on that cross.
The interesting thing about Uzzah is how King David reacts. David, the man after God’s own heart, is angry at God. Perhaps some of us are angry at God today for what happened Wednesday. I certainly have been. What we do now, is begin to heal, and we do that not by debating gun laws, and racism; but by worshiping the means of our own salvation, His Son, and praying for His return to finally end all this.