Friday, December 31, 2004

Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

In my previous post, I dealt briefly with the question, "Is this the judgment of God?" - a question that frequently arises whenever tragedy or disaster strikes. The other question that often runs through people's minds is this: "Why did God allow this to happen?" or, alternatively, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" It is to this second question that I now turn.

Why, indeed, do bad things happen to good people? Many people are bothered by this seemingly divine miscarriage of justice. At least, most people would cite God's lack of fairness in this particular area as reasons why they choose not to believe in such a God. They are greatly concerned about the condemnation of the innocent, and they would have us believe that they themselves would be kinder, more just than the Almighty.

However, their sense of justice rarely extends to the converse of this question: Why do good things happen to bad people? Condemnation of the innocent is unjust, but where is the outrage over the guilty who gets away with his wrongdoing? If a traffic cop pulls us over and writes us a speeding ticket when we were going the posted limit, we will loudly protest our innocence. How many, though, would protest that we rightly deserved a hundred speeding tickets last year, but the cops were remiss in catching us in the act? All of a sudden, the concept of fairness seems...well, unfair! In other words, our sense of justice is usually no better than a two-year-old's: fair = beneficial to me; unfair = puts me at a disadvantage.

The victims of the tsunami, we who were at some other point on the globe at the moment the killer waves struck - how many of us are truly innocent? We've all done wrong (to different degrees) at one time or another. We're all born with our stubborn streak, born in rebellion against God and would just as soon spit in His face. That is man's nature, and were we to experience divine justice, not a one of us would be left standing. We'd all be obliterated for our rebellion.

Why aren't we? Why do we get away with things we know we should be punished for? What we are experiencing now is not divine justice, but divine patience. God's forbearance with us is the reason why we're still living and breathing. One day, we all will see divine justice, but until then, it rains on the just and the unjust; the sun shines on the good along with the wicked. And yes, bad things will happen to good people - as well as the converse, good things will happen to bad people - until that final judgment day.

And what will you say in that final day? What will you say to the Judge who knows all, sees all, hears all, and reads your heart? How can you protest your innocence when both you and He know your unquestionable guilt? You won't want divine justice then. You'll want mercy...

And that is the message of the Cross of Christ. In the crucifixion of Christ, divine justice was satisfied. Jesus "was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised up because of our justification." (Romans 4:25) Those who place their trust in Christ and Christ alone will not face divine justice, but divine mercy.

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