The Eternal "Why?"
“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” —Ecclesiastes 7:20, NIV.
Last night I watched the beginning of a televisions series called The Borgias. Though I haven’t read up on the subject recently and I am certain a lot of fiction has been added to the facts, history doesn’t deny that these leaders of the church in the fifteenth century (or any other century) was unholy men dressed up in holy clothes.
Before I began to watch the movie I had been at church facilitating a discussion on evil and suffering. The movie left me with that age old question prompted by the discussion: Why?
Many of the saints of Scripture asked God, Why? Someone commented last night that it was too pat an answer to say that evil and suffering exist because we live in a broken world, and that we need to focus on fact that there is another world, a better world that is to come. It was a good thought.
But the inescapable truth is that our world is broken, we broke it, and we continue to break it. While it is convenient to point the finger at Hitler, some more modern terrorist, or a wolf disguised as a sheep, even righteous men sin. Often they do so willfully and knowingly.
We also discussed the difference between discipline and punishment. We know that our punishment was absorbed by Jesus on the cross, but the Scriptures clearly speak of God disciplining His children. Punishment is described as the penalty that one pays for having committed an offense. Jesus accepted that penalty on our behalf. While discipline might have the feeling of punishment to it, it’s primary purpose is described as an experience or an activity that trains one to obey a code of behaviour.
I am righteous because Jesus has removed my sins and proclaimed me righteous before God. There is no more punishment for my sin necessary. Christ took it all on Himself. But I still need to be disciplined, to have my course corrected.
I still sin, as do others who have been proclaimed righteous. God has to discipline so that we follow Him more closely. But in some ways I am not consoled. The question of “why?” doesn’t go away. I can’t expect regenerate behaviour from unregenerate men (though it happens) but it bothers me that sometimes I don’t see regenerate behaviour in regenerate men and I wonder why God doesn’t “fix” it. Worse yet, I sometimes don’t see regenerate behaviour in me.
In the end, bereft of an answer to my question, I am driven to those famous words of Jesus spoken just before He went back to heaven. Peter was concerned about the future and the Lord gave him a glimpse of what was coming for him. Then Peter looked over at John and asked the Lord what was going to happen to his brother disciple. Jesus answered: “What is that to you? You must follow me” (John 21:22, NIV).
That kind of remark helps me come back to the part of the brokenness I DO have some influence in fixing—myself. He works on my course corrections, and He is perfectly able to work on the course corrections necessary for all the others.