Innocent babies die from horrible, painful diseases. Blameless bystanders are killed by natural disasters and little children are murdered in terrorist attacks. So, if God exists, why do we all suffer diseases, violence and war? Where was God during the Holocaust? Why doesn’t He put an end to all this evil?
Atheist reasoning falls short
Declaring that God doesn’t exist, since there is evil in this world is a self-contradicting statement, because if God doesn’t exist, there is also no such thing as “evil”. If there is no God – there is no objective morality. Everything is subject to subjective definitions and personal interpretations.
The theory of evolution, for example, claims that the strongest and fittest survive. Therefore, when traveling in Africa and witnessing a tiger devour a zebra, we do not conclude that the tiger is “evil”, or that it should be punished and placed in a jail cell. Instead, we marvel at nature’s wonders. If there is no God, then there is absolutely no difference between us and the animals. And a person who has kidnapped, killed and eaten another person is nothing but a strong animal that survives at the expense of another, weaker animal.
Are there reasons God allows suffering?
Wars, hate and violence don’t suddenly appear out of thin air. The source of evil and wickedness comes from amongst us: human beings. Evil exists in all of us. Therefore, if God wanted to rid the world of all wickedness and evil, all He had to do is wipe out the entire human race.
And is it possible that our goal as human beings is pure joy and continuous fun? With absolutely no feelings of pain or suffering? Who is to say that suffering, pain and death are all bad things? According to Scripture, the purpose of human existence, first and foremost, is having a relationship with God. The famous cliché, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” is true. We mature and gain a newfound perspective on life when we experience difficulty and trauma. You can’t build something new without first tearing down the old. We grow, mature and change – not out of comfort, but out of crisis. That is also when our personality is truly tested.
As Nobel Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King, said:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.
Just like with Job in the Bible, God does allow us to experience suffering. This is so we will look up to the skies to seek him, and to be dependent upon Him. The existence of evil and wickedness in this world is not God’s fault, but ours – human beings. In the very beginning of the Book of Genesis, God gives Adam the privilege of free choice. With the privilege to choose for ourselves comes great responsibility as well, seeing that our choices result in far-reaching implications and repercussions. Our choices are the result of the struggle which exists within each and every one of us. A struggle between LOVE – i.e., being considerate and doing good for the sake of others, and SELFISHNESS – doing evil things and caring for no one other than ourselves, even if it means that others are trampled and hurt by our actions. This side of the struggle is defined by the Bible as “sin”.
Sin is rooted deeply in us and affects nearly every decision we make. The “Butterfly Effect” theory teaches us that one small decision can affect generations to come. That is the reason why our world looks the way it does. Look around you – our decisions affect everything, starting with minor disputes and ending with hatred and horrible wars. From polluting the environment, to natural disasters and dreadful illnesses. All are the results of our wrong choices, our sins throughout every single generation. We naturally tend to look for someone outside of ourselves to blame, But we need to acknowledge the fact that evil and wickedness are not only around us, but within us. Evil and wickedness aren’t proof that God is absent from this world, but that He is absent from our lives. Rejecting God won’t necessarily make you an evil person, just as believing in God won’t make you a perfect, sinless angel. The famous author and philosopher, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, said:
“Denying God, they will end by flooding the earth with blood, for blood cries out for blood”.
As early as 2,000 years ago, Yeshua spoke of the same cycle of bloodshed through vendetta, saying: “For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” [Matthew 26:52]
The way to stop evil
This is an eternal cycle of bloodshed deriving from vengeance after vengeance after vengeance, which still continues to this day. Yeshua claimed that the only way to stop the bloodshed and vendetta is through love. This is what He said in the New Testament:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also…. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? …But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful…. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” [Luke 6:27-37]
Did you pay attention to the point made by Yeshua?
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” [Luke 6:31]
Yeshua is addressing an important principle, according to which each of us can examine ourselves: Try to think of a considerate action and then imagine that every person would take that action. What do you think the world would look like? What would it look like if each and every one of us made others our top priority?
Paul, the apostle, addressed the matter as well, when he said:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” [Romans 12:17-21]
So, if the problem starts here, within us, the solution cannot be outside of us. If God made all missiles and weapons disappear right now, people would still use sticks and stones. After all, people will always come up with reasons to fight and be at war. Sin and hatred may be expressed by external actions, but the source of the problem is here, inside.
In the New Testament, James, the apostle, claims that we now have a new, higher standard for the definitions of “good” and “evil”. If, before that point, we were asked to keep away from evil, now James states:
“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” [James 4:17]
James, the apostle, demands not only that we do not harm others, but that we do good to them; that we are considerate of them and put them before ourselves. The New Testament teaches us that, if we have the opportunity to do good and we purposely avoid it, we are sinning against God.
The famous author, Leo Tolstoy, said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
So, before we point a finger at others or at God, we must first look within ourselves and understand that the real problem of evil comes from inside us. What we need in order to heal the world and have world peace is, first and foremost, inner peace and healing our own hearts.
The Holocaust is the perfect example: I, too, had family members who died in the Holocaust. However, unfortunately, the Holocaust is merely one of many – too many – examples, of a race, group or nation trying to destroy another. It is the human nature which exists in all of us. Every single person. And at all times. Other holocausts took place both before and after that of the Jewish people. Throughout the past 100 years alone, hundreds of millions of people have been murdered.
Religion is not the answer
It is important that you understand that we do not believe that religion is the solution. We do not think that placing a piece of fabric on your head or binding your arm with leather straps can fix our broken hearts. Religions only separate people from one another.
A relationship with God, on the other hand, only brings them closer.
It is right to remember, mourn and cry over the 6 million people who were exterminated. But it is also important to remember that if evil could prevail, our people would have been wiped out 3,000 years ago. The Holocaust happened, but God also watched over us to testify to the fact that He keeps His promises.
One of the most shameful conclusions in any murder case, whether it is a person killing another person or a nation trying to destroy another nation, is that the human heart cannot be trusted. When a man whole-heartedly believes he is right – nothing can stop him. Even religious people who have good intentions and those considered by many to be righteous may stumble into doing evil and pushing others to violence – even in God’s name.
See, for example, what Maimonides said, which encouraged murdering anyone who will not submit to the authority of the Rabbinic Halacha (rulings):
“A person who does not acknowledge the Oral Law is not the rebellious elder mentioned in the Torah. Instead, he is one of the heretics and he should be put to death by any person…. All of these are not considered as members of the Jewish people. There is no need for witnesses, a warning, or judges for them to be executed. Instead, whoever kills them performs a great mitzvah and removes an obstacle from people at large.” [Maimonides (Laws of Rebels, 3)]
We have free will for good reason
God allows evil to exist in the world, not only so that we have complete free will, but also because, without evil, we would have no way of knowing what is good. In the same way that we would not know what light is, if we have never seen darkness, or what cold is, if we have never felt heat. God uses our reality for us to understand what is evil and what is good – and to choose good.
To summarize, we, the human race, are the source of the problem and the reason for our pain and suffering. If God wanted to rid the world of evil and wickedness, all He needed to do is destroy all humans. That is also why, on our own, we cannot be the solution to the problem. But rather we need a savior with greater power than our own. One who can forgive us for all the bad choices we have made, but who also can renew our broken hearts; to give an example and turn over a new leaf for us.
And that is the essence of the story of the Messiah and the New Testament.
For more information: iGod.co.il/017
Eitan's professional background is in "Multimedia Design and Visual Communications" working for various secular advertising agencies in Tel-Aviv.
Eitan is the producer of:
1) I MET MESSIAH (Jewish testimonials).
2) Answering Rabbinic Objections to Jesus.
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