Last week in a scene that looked like it was out of a zombie movie, Florida police shot and killed a crazed man as he attacked a homeless guy, eating off most of the victim’s face. Other similar incidents are now captivating our attentions. Repulsive to say the least! Heartbreaking for all who claim the description of human.
Regardless of whether zombie style attacks are becoming increasingly common, we need only open our eyes to see the prevalence of evil in our world. It seems entirely natural for us to begin to question God’s goodness. After all, if God is all loving and all powerful, why is our world in such a sorry state?
How could such pain and suffering be integral to God’s design? Aren’t so many of our human actions indicative of naturalistic evolution more than a magnificent race created in God’s image?
A primary problem we all face is trying to filter what we see through the lens of a sin stained world. It all appears very dark and bloody. The only effective way I know to broaden our perspective is to gaze back in time to Chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Genesis, which provide us with an image of God’s design before sin entered into the picture.
“7 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:7-9 (NASB)
The name Eden means pleasure or delight. No pain, no suffering and no death were to be found in God’s personally planted Garden. Every tree was pleasing to the look, pleasing to the taste and nutritious for the body. Eden reveals the true heart of God.
Why, we might ask, would God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden if He knew all of the pain it would bring? The most straight up answer is love. By its very nature, love demands the freedom to choose. If we take away freedom, love ceases to be love. But having the freedom to love also means that we have the freedom to unlove. And this is a freedom God sovereignly continues to provide—even to the point of allowing one man to eat off another’s face. The benefits and beauty of love, God must feel, outweigh the pain and suffering of unlove.
How difficult it is for us to grasp the idea that love is the reason we see such pain and suffering in our world! Only an amazing measure of courageous love would give us the freedom to both love and unlove.
Interestingly, those who are the most critical of God’s willingness to allow pain and suffering in our world are also those who scream the loudest any time their personal freedoms are threatened. They want both personal freedom and a nice world. Sweet thoughts, but due to the self-centered nature of humankind, impossible apart from the cross of Jesus Christ.
Even more interesting is the fact that a freedom-based harmony is God’s goal as well. If we fast-forward to the end of Revelation, we find Eden revisited by a remnant of humanity defined by faith and love. The only difference is that by the time we reach Revelation 22 unlove and its disastrous consequences have been quarantined in the second death.
Unable yet to see with total clarity, we can still catch glimpses of our God’s pure desire. And when we talk of the coming of His kingdom, we speak simply of a return to a world unblemished by sin and its dreadful consequences.
For now we live in the in-between, the almost-but-not-yet. We experience tantalizing tastes of heaven as we draw near to God, conforming our will to His. Oh, the sheer contrast between God’s delightful life and the painful death of independence from our Creator!