What About Us?
Auschwitz. A word that is able to stir up emotions and discussions that revolve around the concept of human suffering like few others. Most of us know something of the atrocities that were carried out toward the Jews and others in Nazi occupied Poland. Words cannot adequately express the horror that these people suffered. Not only were they slaughtered in the gas chambers, they died from starvation, disease, torture, and were subjected to cruel medical experiments. Children saw these things happening to their parents and parents saw them happening to their children. The same with husbands and wives. Our eyes fill with tears and our anger burns hot toward those that could treat human beings this way. Rightfully so. What length would you go to in order to try to save and protect as many of these people as you could, even though it could cost you your own life? Would you lie in order to hide them and protect them? Some did. Many of us would. We see a difference between lying for personal gain or doing harm to our neighbor and telling a falsehood in order to protect someone from harm. This sparks discussion concerning the ethics of lying in certain situations. Would you kill Nazis if you had the chance in order to stop the abuse of innocent children? Some would. This sparks discussion concerning the ethics of killing and the difference between justifiable homicide (like Moses who slew the Egyptian?) and murder. Murder is obviously always wrong, but not all homicide is considered murder.
On a larger scale, events such as these are catalysts for theological discussions concerning the existence of God, the goodness of God, and his involvement in the world’s affairs. Where was God when the Jews were crying out in pain and pleading for the lives of their loved ones? If God is good, why did he allow these evils to happen? Was he able to do something about it? If so, why didn’t he? These questions and more have resulted in people hating God or denying his existence altogether. None of us are comfortable answering these objections, even as Christians, because the simple fact is, we know that God can intervene, but many times he does not. Is it because God does not care? Maybe it because God created a world in which human beings have much more say-so than many are willing to acknowledge.
Have you ever wondered why God did not destroy Hitler for the evils that he was implementing and supporting? I can imagine some people saying something like: “Well, God should have just killed Hitler instead of allowing him to cause so much suffering.” They reason that since he didn’t, he is not as good as he can be, if he even exists. But these same people hear of God moving the Israelite armies to destroy another nation that was practicing evil and causing suffering to their own children and others, but they say God is not good for doing so. Do they not realize the contradiction? I cannot speak for God, other than by sharing what the Bible teaches, but I wonder if he looks down and hears these contradictions and concludes that no matter what he does, most people will not be satisfied.
I reject the theological concept that God is directing all that happens, whether it is good or bad. Some people think that whatever happens was part of "God's plan." If they have an accident that leaves them paralyzed, it was part of “God’s perfect plan.” If a spouse dies of cancer, it was part of "God’s perfect plan." Through this framework, these people consider everything that happens to everyone in the world to be God’s will, otherwise he is not sovereign. This idea may bring comfort to certain individuals because it helps them think their plight has a purpose, but others find it reprehensible, and I fall into the latter camp. To take this approach, we would have to conclude that God is responsible for the torture and abuse of not only the Jews in Germany, but also the many other instances of the same in other places, as well as every time someone is violated, mutilated, or murdered. Some people may be more neutral in their observation and presentation of this topic, but I cannot be neutral. This idea is appalling, and quite frankly, it angers me that a person proclaiming to be a Christian could see these events as being a part of God’s perfect plan. It is a slander on God’s character.
But some may ask why God allows evil since he does not cause it. This is a fair question and when it comes to specific instances of suffering and evil, we cannot provide perfect answers. But generally speaking, as it has often been stated by many able teachers, the sovereign God created a world in which he is not the only being that has “say-so” when it comes to what happens on earth. We have already seen that God has dealt with the matter of evil by destroying evil-doing nations and people accuse him of not being good because of it, and then in instances where he has not destroyed the evildoers, he has been accused of not being good for that as well. But to blame God at all is to completely miss the point. Why are we as human beings so adept at blaming others for the things that go wrong? We have value on this earth. We have say-so on this earth. We have the ability to do both good and evil. We have to the ability to cause suffering and to alleviate suffering. God has told us in his Word that “to love” – to seek the highest well-being of others, is to fulfill God's moral law. God is not responsible for moral evil, people are. Many people have worked against God’s law of love, causing suffering for other humans, rather than seeking their well-being. This has been demonstrated in many different ways. So perhaps the question we need to be asking is not “why didn’t God do something to prevent my or someone else’s suffering?”, instead we should be asking “why didn’t I do something?” I read that many of the churches in Europe were silent while these people were being slaughtered, and it was because of fear. Why would we blame God when the people that are called to be his ambassadors on earth stood by and did nothing? Not that no one answered the call. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie Ten Boom were not content to sit by and do nothing. They put themselves at risk for the purpose of alleviating the suffering of others.
Here is an even better question for you and me. What am I doing about the suffering going on around me, right now? Husbands and wives are hurting, parents are hurting, children are hurting, and we do nothing. Widows and orphans are suffering, and we do nothing. People are ill or disabled, and we do nothing. Millions of human beings are being slaughtered in the womb in our very own country, and we do nothing. I read about a woman that was involved in abortions and did not think much about it, other than it was a woman’s “right”, until the day she saw a baby in the womb actually moving its body away from the needle that was being inserted to murder it. She could not believe what she had been a part of, and today she speaks against the atrocity of abortion.
We get angry and shake our fist at God, or curse a Hitler, but we do nothing while these things happen. Humans, generally speaking, are hypocrites. Am I? Are you? People are suffering from all kinds of infirmities and hardships, all around us, but what are we doing about it? David Wilkerson once said that he believes that Satan’s most powerful tactic against Christians is an attack on their minds, bringing unholy suggestions to their minds that they have to fight against, and they suffer mentally because they blame themselves just for the thoughts being there. Yet we remain silent while society churns out pornography and immodesty without shame. Children are dying of cancer. What are we doing about it? People have made terrible decisions that they regret. Are we seeking them out with the love of Christ, sharing the message of his mercy? There are outcasts all around us. How are we helping them? What are we doing to protect people from crime? Are we using our time, skills, and resources to find ways to prevent suffering and to bring comfort to the broken-hearted? Or are we content just to complain and point the finger at others?
The Lord himself allowed the powers of darkness and evil men to have their way with him, that he might destroy the works of Satan, the power of death, and the power of sin. He did not turn a blind eye to the suffering that humanity has been enduring. He suffered and died for us, so that we can one day experience the bliss of eternal life. Though evil has caused much suffering, Christ has triumphed over it, and nothing can compare to what is in store for those of us who follow him. A better day is coming. What are we doing in the meantime to help others along the way? I challenge you (and myself) to remember well the words of John Wesley – “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”