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THE REASON FOR SUFFERING
THE LICENCE FOR LOVE
Not reeling but kneeling is the answer:
for God has the solution to spiritual evil,
and the way is one He has personally constructed
wrought in One who is Eternal.
For some, the sheer density of suffering, the abandoned, the illegitimate, the hounded, the harassed, the tormented, the sold, the abused, the slowly dying, the intensively mistaken, the misled: it is all too much. If, they say, perhaps if ONLY what is directly and clearly deserved were to happen, that might be an answer, but this! No go, they say. Give the Bible to someone else. God is not good.
In answer to this wayward, shallow and fiercely denunciatory style against the God of creation, of the Bible, of verified testimony alone at His level, on the earth*1, there is a first port of call. It is this.
IS everyone innocent ? DO you have to thieve, kill or squander before being a sinner ? By WHAT rule is this to be determined ?
The Bible has another perspective. According to it, mankind has inherited sin from infancy, through the fall of the original man and woman (Genesis 3, Romans 5, I Corinthians 15), who were not indeed the original sinners among all conscious and rational beings, since angels fell before them; but they were for all that, original in being the first body plus mind plus spirit beings to do so.
Who is man to tell his Maker that this sin should not be considered! If God chose to make a man who could sin or be angelic, is this our affair, to judge Him. If man chose to fall, is this to be ignored. Is truth to be captive to imagination ?
If moreover SOME may become eternal beings in the light of the Lord's magnificence, not for pride or pleasure but because they love Him, is this ultimate love affair, not founded on passion, but on truth, to be obliterated because some prefer hatred and being hateful, hapless and being lustful ? Is the world to be deleted because of sin and hatred and merry derring do ? Is its Maker to be disesteemed because of the multitude and magnitude of His grace and mercy, and His free gift of eternal life, a gift by grace indeed (Romans 5:15), for no other reason than this, that the capsule for this gift has rorted reality, cavorted against truth and imported sin!
Or is sin to be deleted by will, and a lie to be implanted in the system to cover the case.
By what authority could any such things be done, one or all ?
In what way is the attainment of the blessedness of being with God as a child of God, adopted by His plan of salvation, to be deemed useless, futile in comparison with the suffering of those who opt out ?
Yet some may reply: DO they opt out ?
In the end, yes: it is either that or they are brought in (Colossians 1:19). Since the Almighty is there as elsewhere on record as desiring ALL to be reconciled to Himself and to repent into truth, and we are examining the testimony of the God of the Bible in view of the fact that some wish to condemn Him and dare to try to make out a case against Him, we must consider what He says, and the way in which He has acted in conformity with this, and not some other model, imported for confusion into the biblical sphere!
What then of His haven ? They come in: or else they do not want it (John 3:19). It is not a flicker of transient human will (John 1:12), and it is not the result of the personal operation of human will at all, as the Bible says. God has things far safer than that; but it is an operation which deals with human will past its pathology, in truth, as God seeking for all, in love takes those who are His. He knows the truth and so acts. He does not force, there is no spiritual rape.
That is for destiny, another may say, but what of the PRESENT ? Are not some abandoned by their parents, not because they chose them, but despite the lack of any such choice. Are these justly to receive the dregs they may get, because of depraved parents ?
No, they are not. They receive the dregs they may get because ALL have sinned, man from the first, children from then onwards, being BORN IN SIN, not unselfish but in a style of being far from the celestial. Hence it is useless, contrary to the biblical model if you like to put it that way, to talk of their not deserving. What is a rat, deserves to be treated as one; what a sinner, is in that mode and condition. Indeed, what is a sinner has no innocence to protect. The particular relationship of certain sins to certain results is not the point. Sin is a condition and all people, young and old have it. It is not HOW to sin which is the question, but what to DO about its presence.
IF you are a faulty car, then it is irrelevant to complain at the things that happen to it. That is not a question of justice, but of desiring that no cars be faulty.
Hence, the argument comes to turn on this: SHOULD GOD have AVOIDED the creation of mankind in genuine innocence, but with liberty, since his fall meant that what he begot would be in his cosmos of sin, and hence not immune for whatever might befall, exactly as Psalm 1 describes it: indeed man without God becomes like the chaff that the wind blows. If you are not in the granary, then it is to that situation, that you are susceptible.
Should God have avoided mankind and smitten out of history the millions who came to know Him, children of grace, in order that those who do NOT desire Him, should be indulged ? On what basis is such an equation to be made ? This is to honour perversity of spirit above truth, and unrighteousness above righteousness, and in no sense would be just.
Nor is this all. Eternity is ceaseless. Time is limited. When its objectives are finished, this time of ours with its need of patience for development and for events, then it is gone. The contrast of this life with eternity is vast; the loss in time and the gain in eternity are incomparable.
God has predestined all, and not one will fail to find Him whom He has chosen. But you say, WHOM has He chosen ? Why, clearly, those who are His! But HOW does He know them ? someone asks. Does not a Father know who are His, or the Saviour who are His ?
But WHY does He then choose them ? The answer from the Bible is quite conspicuously clear. He chooses to seek ALL with heart and desire, as shown especially in such files as
Great Execrations, Great Enervations, Greater Grace Chs. 7 and 9,
A Time to Praise God, Appendix 1,
Message ... Ch. 9,
Marvels of Predestination ... Ch. 4, Ch. 6, Supplement 6,
The Spiritual Sagacity of Predestination in Love Ch. 4,
The Pride of Life ... Ch. 7,
Massifs of Pure Splendour Ch. 7.
What does not respond -
despite the seeking on the part of divine omnipotence, with omniscience,
of divine integrity and restraint -
|not in actuality in history, since this is
by the relevant volitional paralysis in this area, wrought by sin (I Corinthians 2:14),
but in eternity by foreknowledge that is profound and beyond episode and
on this earth altogether (Romans 9:11),
what then of this ?
Why, this is not taken.
Love is like that.
He chooses what He chooses because of the total, universal love for man in the outsurging of love; and if some in His foreknowledge do not desire Him, then without Him they go. Not for them that irresistible grace, nor for them that opening of the blind eye with the vision of the Almighty. Love is not irresistible by dictatorship, passion or domain, for this is its debasement. If this were not so, multitudes of divine exhortations, entreaties and assurances would be not merely meaningless but contrary to fact. Love is irresistible in reality when there is response in love.
Because of our condition this does not occur in the flesh (Romans 8:7-9); but because of the love of God, the reality of it is foreknown and understood, and predestination is statedly based on this foreknowledge, past historical events and in the very innate perception of God, beyond sin, in the hallowed holiness of His own integrity. Power could have all; but not as free agents in love. Love would like all, but not in derogation of what it is. Truth takes those who are His, and these He knows. It is not based on IF, but on KNOW. That is what Romans tells us. However, it does say this: WHAT IF! What if God with much longsuffering bore with vessels fitted for destruction ? (Romans 9:22).
Thus although naturally the sovereignty of the Sovereign is not delusively abandoned, as if sin were better to rule than the Creator, neither is it woefully misused, as if to constitute His own and then have them love Him, so having 'free' people.
Procedurally, yes He does just that; but the procedure as always in spiritual reality, is built on principle and morality and truth. WHY does He do it this way ?
He acts with pathologically paralysed people RELATIVE to CHOOSING Him (John 15:16, 1:12, Ephesians 4:17-19, Romans 8:7, I Corinthians 2:14), and so actualises the result sovereignly. That is why it is necessary, though it was not so with Adam and Eve. That is why.
Why does He rescue any ? It is because He loves them. Why does He not rescue all, as He would like (cf. Colossians 1:19) ? It is because power in love is not all. There has to be reciprocity or response or relationship, and where this is not to be thrust in, then it must be found out, and itis HE because of sin, who does the finding out, and applies the result of this, His foreknowledge.
He rescues the lost on the basis of desiring them (as He states) whoever they are, and repudiates those who are not His (on the basis of foreknowledge as He also states, the basis for predestination) so that they do not find inclusion, because love does not reach there, and sin does, so that their hearts being inviolate, are not changed contrary to their reality. It is the case, as
He thirdly states, that the ground of condemnation is NOT this, that He came into the world to condemn, His saving mission being UTTERLY OTHER (John 3:17), and NOT this, that HE is responsible for the exclusion through a limit to love's ambit on the part of Him who IS love (I John 4:7), in some self-contradictory sort of way. It is far from this, and He so states. What then is condemnation's actual, divinely stated ground ?
It is THIS, that some prefer light to darkness even WHEN such was His saving mission (John 3:17-19), even when God who foreknows all, is the one loving. When such love is in action, such its object and such is its most grievously felt. Such is the omission in concept. What omission ? It is that of salvation. What does this mean ? It is judgment according to truth (Romans 2:1). That is what it is.
Small wonder then that God, who does not change because He knows, being beyond time as we have it in His own being (Romans 8:38-39), so exhorts, so seeks, so entreats, so gives illustrations and parables, so diffuses colour and so campaigns (as in Hosea 12:10) , so provides warnings and so elaborates even more opportunities even when man is busily making sure the die is cast (as in Jeremiah 17), so acts that He even comes in person to this earth and suffers and shows and portrays and acts and relieves and heals and speaks, and dies in the human format, and exhibits the reality of death and devil and fraud, and of the Good Shepherd, entreating even as He dies in this format, for forgiveness for those who so horrendously are even then acting against Him. SUCH IS LOVE. That is how it is. That is the basis of our love, however deluded or divorced from its original.
Indeed, the Bible is filled with intensively diversified cases of people in all sorts of godless glitches, hapless hitches, spiritual lapses, and the divine resolution of the apparently irresolvable, solution of the seemingly unsolvable, restoration of the utterly lost and redemption of the horrendously indebted in the accounts of God, from their perilous condition and merited doom (cf. II Corinthians 5:21).
What then of those rejected ? what of those whom He statedly WOULD have, but actually does not, and so sealing, determines the matter.
They are not worse in construction, but their liberty is not annulled in the sight of God, who knowing all past and beyond sin, knows the heart of each. Superiority is not an issue, since beyond sin, before the eye of the all-knowing God, its divisions and calamities have not occurred.
God being God, therefore both CAN and DOES make a world in which freedom, a precondition of love and personality and meaning for man, occurs, and its results declare themselves often in hideous collision with rationality, righteousness and equity. This is seen not only in individuals, but in family situations, social ones, national and international cases; and the probing and testing is such that the entire parable of liberty becomes as in a laboratory, now shown as a data bank.
Disillusion with false optimism regarding alternatives to the liberty of love in God is now justified for all eternity. There is no argument. It is all history, it is all shown, every kind of folly, distortion, evasion, ephemeral construction in the clouds of vapid thought has been tried. The summary in the devil, by the time of Revelation 19, is quite explicit, and his false prophet and beast and pompously eloquent 'little horn' are all but devices of the devil. The cards lie open on the table. Eternity has laboratory as well as principle to show. There is no more muddle. Truth is ruling because it is true, and God is true, whose it is, and love is true, and folly is fulfilled, and peace is profound, then and there, even integumental.
Thus, such vast and unerring grounds for acclaim of the truth are shown shown in innumerable instances, decisive outcomes, with models and opportunities for inspection massed on all sides over the centuries, over the millenia, in this race's development and fall, this city's, this nation's and that. For all time there is the scope for the recitations of folly, so that principles and practice cohere.
The individuals will not be abandoned because simply of their sin, since God would have all, and exclusion is not based on missed opportunities, but unaccomplished entente, and that, without the knowledge of the souls to be won, unless perhaps in retrospect, when God has acted.
Thus education and justification, authentication and verification of the ways and will of God are shown to all, His justice is not misconstruable as self-will, but shown as immovable, according to truth. Nothing else works. How could it ? If God puts His trade-mark on systems and on the criteria for history, how on earth or beyond it would anyone ever expect any FALSE perspective, spurious will or misled imagination to be ABLE to rort reality and live!
What then ? History puts the 'prac' course into place; while eternity shows forth the triumphs of His grace, taken wherever, whenever, but as to however ? It is through that same seeking love which is neither dictatorial nor dependent on the pathological restrictions and constrictions of fallen man, and in terms of that same Gospel, always in mind, in view, never variable, immutable as it is beautiful, inerrant, free, a conferring of grace, an effusion of mercy, a wonder built on horror, that of the Cross, itself meeting another horror, that of sin and its result death, with life, even eternal life in its gift.
Neither does this salvation depend on the spurious enticements of the Creator, for He is not even capable of being tempted, dispensing His will and word in unison as He will, nor on the mere incursions of grabbing force. It depends, as all things in the God who is without iniquity (Deuteronomy 32), who dwells in light unapproachable (I Timothy 6:16), on the divine integrity.
Nor is this some intellectual forte, merely, but a matter of the heart where purity dwells and desire for the impartation of life and goodness and eternity to those in time, in His image, has all the sincerity of the Creator's heart, and all the wisdom of His omniscience. Praise God, He IS God, and for us, it is necessary to LET God be God. This does not imply that we could change Him, but that we can seek to act in our own minds or hearts AS IF we could, and so inherit wrath for folly and devilry, abusing even the divine name.
What may be salvaged will be, and this will no technical lapse or oddity of circumstance prevent. What must be left in all integrity, will be.
God has thus planned a glorious opportunity, a race with liberty, so that even when they enchain each other, there is access to God through the Gospel here, and through predestination to cover each case. As to love, in man, redeemed by God, is he not concerned with something of the concern of his own Redeemer, who gave all to save some, to find and declare the Gospel, to reach and breach the obstructions, to warn and exhort, to seek to remove the often State controlled engines of destructions from the minds and hearts of those whom they evilly misdirect, not by force, but by truth and love and mercy and persistence ? But of course.
Was not Wilberforce a precise example of just this, spending so much of his substance, spirit, time and life in seeking such a deliverance for slaves in particular! Was not Paul in such things, a very exemplar, not in some chariot of greatness, but in sufferings often, if by any means he might win some (cf. I Corinthians 4:9-13, II Corinthians 4:7ff., 6:4ff., I Corinthians 9:19-23).
Love does not alter the results of freedom from EXISTING, but it takes action to deliver many from SUBSISTING in this condition!
Will a man then declare to God that liberty should not be permitted, despite all these provisions and precautions ? Will someone assert that it is wrong of God to have made man in His own image, capable of discussion, understanding, knowledge and resolution, of love ?
Such a declaration, such an assertion is mere dictation of will, and has no basis, but that of preferring the obliteration of the millions of lives who know and will always know the supreme beauty and loveliness of God, of His truth and will, by His grace, in order that others who PREFER to have Him gone, and find the same, might have their own preferences aborted as well.
Let God be God, and if you desire Him, take Him on His Gospel terms. If you do not, then in your limited creation of the world of your thought, in your own psyche, relate to reality, for it will not cease to be there, as you can. Without knowing God, it naturally seems like laws and orders, restrictions and constrictions, for such is the way with a wilful horse on a severe bridle, made to meet the case (Psalm 32 tells us so). A world then recreated in order to prevent freedom, make love impossible, discard mercy, desecrate personality: it is conceivable. But as to its being any good, this is not conceivable.
Reject God when He calls, provides, has come in the flesh, has died to meet justice, has risen to enable conferment of eternal life ? It is possible. Such a preference however gives no logical ground for trying to smite God with the lips or thought, for not having done it differently: that, it would remove the marvels of eternity for the sake of those who seek what they get and cannot stand God. Is disease then to dictate ? Is spiritual suicide to become the lord of all, and its requirements to be king ?
Suffering ? God has done this in the flesh, the very flesh of man, more than all; and is He therefore to be criticised for being unloving ? Suffering ? If one rejects the Lord, what is one to expect, for it is as if one insisted on driving on the US side of the road, in Australia. It is not necessary to remove all drivers or roadworks because some prefer this lawlessness.
Could God have gone further ? Yes, if He had become a dictator and had removed man, mercy, truth and law; but then it would be hell for any and for all, for truth would be fallen in the streets, justice defaced and love debauched. If these things of love and truth are to stand, then liberty must; and if man falls in liberty, then love has entry; and if love even then is rejected, if mercy is begrimed with grudging, then let pride rule; but let it not rule the world!
See also: PAIN, SUFFERING AND EVIL.
Light Dwells with the Lord's Christ