The Problem of Evil. The Moral Argument for God.
It’s hard to know exactly what to say when talking to a youth group: how much is too much or too little? What is it they need to take away?
We’re good at keeping things in the abstract, and their examples of “evil” were consistently examples of killing: definitely real, but comfortably distant from the first day of the new school year, new teachers, new schedules. When I ask them how sin impacts their lives they murmur hesitantly about disobedience to parents, or friends being dishonest with them.
The crucial thing, the thing I want them to see? This problem of evil goes so much further: the very air they breathe is the air of brokenness.They can taste it in the tears of loneliness that no one sees them shed. They touch it in bodies that grow sick, without explanation, in bodies that break, and tear, and betray. They wear it in the soul-scars of high-school romances gone awry, of friends’ jests which will rankle and hurt for the rest of their lives, of days when they didn’t fit in, didn’t measure up, when the door was allowed to close just before they reached it.
Death is no abstraction, either. Across the ocean in Egypt they’re burning churches and killing innocents. In a town half an hour down the road from us a young girl disappeared from her home, only to be found, a body in the woods, ten days later.
How, having felt sick over these different pains all day, how do you teach a lesson in the abstract, with philosophical arguments about different worldviews? The only way all that matters is if it touches us where we’re living, if it makes a difference.
I floundered, and I faltered, and I watched whole freight trains of thought go plummeting into deep lakes of oblivion. And then I remembered the truth, the thing that needed saying most of all.
It isn’t the fact that our ability to recognize moral right and wrong points us to a moral lawgiver. It isn’t the fact that good deeds can’t make us good. No. It is this gospel, this gospel which isn’t simply about making bad people good, or even about making dead people alive: it is about taking a system which is completely broken and making it completely whole. It is about this God who says — behold it! — “I am making all things new,” who is going to wipe away all the tears, and wipe out death, and mourning, and crying, and pain.
So we do not hang our hopes on the here and now, because we know this here and now is broken, and we are free to weep for it, because we know that it is wrong. And if we cannot stop our tears? Our hopes hang on what is to come, on the made-new, the unbroken, the restored — and on the New-Maker, Un-breaker, Restorer, who says that He Himself will wipe these tears away.
And then the air we breathe will be the air of wholeness, and no one will be lost, and no one will be sick, and no one will be lonely.
©2013 by Stacy Nott