Last week, out of the blue, my son asked me two big questions that sent me scrambling: “Why did people fly planes full of people into buildings on September 11?” and “Is the hurricane Florence going to kill people this week?”
At least he gave me a day or two to recover between interrogations!
He is being exposed to—and attempting to cope with—information with which all of us are all too aware: we live in a world in which it’s difficult to make sense of sin and its effects. My job is to help him think about and respond to the effects of sin that he’s going to witness in a distinctly Christian way.
Sin is the common cause of the horror we remember on the anniversary of 9/11 and the fear we feel in the path of a storm like Florence.
In addition to the obvious pain we experience when sin strikes through a natural disaster or a terrorist’s scheme, we are left with questions: Did God cause this? If God is good, why didn’t He prevent this? Why would God create a world in which this type of evil occurs? Have you ever struggled with these questions? How are we to make sense of sin and its effects? Here’s how the Apostle Paul framed the problem:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22-24a)
Paul describes the groaning that results from the effects of two varieties of sin. First, sin has broken the natural world. Second, the sin that resides within us has broken our relationships.
HURRICANE FLORENCE AND SIN-MARRED CREATION
Creation is good and it points us to God. However, since the moment Adam and Eve sinned, the entire cosmos was fractured.
While God continues to reign over the world he spoke into being, it groans under the weight of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, and landslides. Furthermore, creation is marred by cancer, auto-immune diseases, viruses, germs, physical pain, mental and emotional disorders, and death. Our news feeds are full of disasters around the globe and our prayer lists are full of people we love whose bodies are being ravaged. We often ask why everything seems to be spinning out of control. Sin is the culprit.
9/11 AND SIN-STAINED CREATURES
What kind of depravity would cause someone to fly a jet full of people into a building? The same kind of sickness that would cause us to lie, steal, covet, lust, hate, gossip, and cheat.
There is a line that runs through every human heart. Much of the pain and suffering we experience happens when that line gets crossed. Sin separates us from God and it drives a blunt wedge through our relationships. We grieve the sin that causes us to be divided, within ourselves, from one another, and from God, and we wonder why it only seems to get worse. Again, sin is the culprit.
RESPONDING TO SIN AND ITS EFFECTS
As Christians who live and love, worship and work in a sin-broken world, how can we respond? We cannot ignore evil. When it affects us—and it will—we shouldn’t be surprised as if something strange is happening to us. And, we must respond in faith, allowing sin and its effects to drive us closer to God rather than pushing us away.
Theologian N.T. Wright says, “The Gospels tell the story, unique in the world’s great literature, religious theories, and philosophies: the story of the creator God taking responsibility for what’s happened to creation, bearing the weight of its problems on his own shoulders.” Whether we’re watching a hurricane bearing down on the coast or remembering where we were when the towers came down, we must remember that God permitted His beloved Son to experience the worst that the broken cosmos and sinful people could do. Because Jesus endured the cross, bore our sin, went to hell and back, and rose again to defeat death, we can be supremely confident, hopeful, and faithful in the face of unspeakable evil.
Don’t forget that the Jesus we love and serve is the same Jesus who can still the wind and waves with a word (Mark 4:35-41) and forgive and redeem sinners (Luke 23:38-43). Although sin seems to be winning, we know that Jesus will have the final word. We can make sense of sin and its effects because we trust Jesus.