Suffering? Have Some Mercy and Grace.

This post is a response to something my friend wrote on his blog. Rather than take up a considerable amount of space in his comments, I have decided to post my thoughts here.

After some of the things I’ve wrestled through in the past few months, I’d have to say that the question of why God allows suffering gets things backwards. I think it assumes in the first place that we are not all worthy of suffering greatly for our sins.

I think rather than asking why God allows suffering or asking why we allow suffering we ought to be asking “Why does God allow us to live in spite of our sinfulness?”

You see friend, this world we live in is dying, and it’s all because of sin. The universe is decaying because sin entered in by way of Adam and Eve. It’s moving day after day, hour after hour, moment by moment toward its ultimate destruction. Apart from Christ, the men and women of this world, including you and I, stand already condemned and worthy of death before a holy God. And the fact that God does not send us straight to just judgment in hell the moment we sin is an act of Grace!

And how is God even able to offer us this Grace without contradicting His divine demand of justice for sin? The Cross of Jesus Christ provides the answer to this much better question. The mercy and grace that we are offered at the Cross is there because the wrath of God for sin was on Christ! Because the justice poured out at the Cross was infinite for the infinite offense of sin against a holy God, God is therefore free to offer Grace and Mercy as He so wills.

That we are still living and breathing, that we are not as bad as we could be (even Joseph Stalin didn’t murder his own mother) is a sovereign act of God moving in His Grace. That does not mean that all people have all of God’s Grace. God sovereignly chooses those upon whom He will bestow His Grace and Mercy. “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.” declares the Lord.

As an aside, if you want some more Scriptural background on the things I’m talking about, I’d suggest reading up a bit on the Doctrines of Grace.

So does the fact that God doesn’t magically eliminate all suffering mean that we don’t help the poor or care for the sick? By no means! We ought to do these things because we love them. And we ought to love them because God has demonstrated His love to us by giving us Christ’s Cross. But the elimination of suffering in this fallen world is not the goal of these actions.

Folks like Rob Bell will tell you that that is the goal because we’re supposed to bring some sort of physical kingdom of God here to earth. That’s not at all the goal, and that’s a completely unscriptural motive. The goal in showing love and mercy to the suffering is to be merciful because God is merciful to us, and if that person is unsaved, the ultimate goal is to show them the way to repentance and faith in Christ.

Suffering isn’t at all the question, is it? God gives to us all varying degrees of mercy and grace as He sovereignly chooses. I’m not sure that any of us is really in a position to question the one giving mercy as to how much mercy we or others “deserve” are you? I know that on the surface that might seem like a cop out, but it really isn’t. None of us deserve God’s Mercy or Grace, and that, my friend, is precisely why God’s Mercy and Grace are so grand!

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2 Responses to Suffering? Have Some Mercy and Grace.

  1. maybenow says:

    well bill ive thought about what you are saying and you are right about a lot, but… when you said that bring some type of heaven to earth is totally unbiblical i was floored. jesus spent everyday of his ministry showing heaven to people. the next statement you made was that you should show mercy to people through love to people. what do you call that? showing a hell to people? definitely not. well whatever see ya later Gator.

  2. Bill says:

    Chuck, you misunderstand me. I said we do not bring a physical Kingdom of God to earth. We are partners in bringing the spiritual Kingdom of God to earth by way of preaching the Gospel. Jesus, in His earthly ministry wasn’t merely telling people to be nice to each other. He was calling them to repent of their sins and believe in Him for salvation!

    The point of Jesus coming to earth wasn’t to fix life here on earth. It was to save the lost by dying in their place! Jesus didn’t even try to fix the world in the days that He lived. Examine His life. He didn’t assault a single social institution that was out of whack in His day. He didn’t come to eliminate poverty or slavery. He didn’t have a social agenda to accomplish. He came to seek and save the lost and effectually call them to repentance and faith.

    That doesn’t mean working for those things is wrong, but our motivation for doing so is different than what the Emergent movement preaches. Our ultimate goal ought to be in fulfilling the Great Commission: to preach the Gospel to all men. So when we take care of the physical needs of men and work toward social justice, it is with a view of eternity in mind. It is with the sole intent of calling men to repentance and faith in Christ that we do those things.

    It’s all about perspective, brother. Heaven and hell are eternal. Our lives here on earth are like a vapor. When we understand that eternity is eternal and earth is very very temporary, that will shape our thinking and our motivations.

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