A good friend was talking with me during lunch break today. She was asking me how my daughter has been doing, and I shared her recent progress with sleeping through the night (go Ellie!). She shared how her daughter has been attending a church camp this week and is learning how to knit. Her daughter came home from camp and had a whole bunch of questions about God and faith.
One of her questions was, “Mommy, if God is good, why does hate exist?”
What a deep question for a child to ask, right? I’d be lying if I haven’t asked that question more than once in my adult years!
The root of this question is this — If God is good and loving and perfect, and if He created everything, then why do bad things exist? In my opinion, that’s a fair and logical assessment. I think that each one of us is faced with this mystery at one point in our lives.
Well, to understand how to reconcile this gap between “God is good” and “evil exists,” we need to go back to the beginning. Genesis outlines the picture for us in chapter 1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Then, God continued creating for the next 6 days — waters, sky, land, plants, the sun, moon and stars, animals, and finally, humans.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
So here it is. God creates this amazing world as we know it. Earth, stars, moon, sun, galaxies. Everything. It’s amazing.
Sidebar — I just spent this past weekend enjoying some time out-of-state with family. The weather was glorious. Car windows rolled down, I drove through the side roads of Delaware and Pennsylvania enjoying the cool breeze, the warm sunshine and the crystal blue sky painted with puffy clouds. That’s what we get to enjoy because God created it for us.
One important thing that God did was set up a system of right and wrong. Here’s how he did it. He created an AMAZING place for us to enjoy. In this place, He created a space that was off-limits, essentially saying, you can go anywhere you please, except for this one place. So he created the Garden of Eden — a picture-perfect place where there was no evil, no sin, no sickness. Then, He gave a single rule: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gen. 3:16)
Sounds simple enough right? Honestly, you have to admit that’s a sweet deal. Perfection defined, no trouble, no mosquitos sucking your blood, no kids dying of cancer. The only stipulation is — don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
But then, along came a serpent, who used cunning lies mixed with truth to deceive Adam and Eve:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Adam and Eve bought the lie. They went against the one thing that God told them to do. They chose badly. Because of that choice, sin entered the world and we now know the reality of brokenness and despair, violence and crime, hurt and sadness.
And — to answer that sweet child’s question — that’s how hate entered the world.
It sounds extreme that all of humanity would have to pay the price for the mistake these first two humans made, but I’ll be the first to admit that if it weren’t Adam and Eve who messed things up, I would have. Temptation is real. Come on, I think we can all admit a time where things were going so well for us. We were living in our own little “garden” of paradise. Then, something pops up and we’re drawn to make a poor choice. And instead of refusing the urge to choose poorly, we go down that rabbit trail and end up royally screwing things up.
Yeah, maybe Adam and Eve’s story isn’t so unique to them after all. Selfishness taints us all, from the smallest baby to the oldest person. We are all drawn to our own desires — what will benefit me, what will advance me, what will make me feel good.
So again, if God is so good, why didn’t he just hardwire us to not be selfish? Seems pretty clear right? Good God makes good people. Everyone’s happy and no one dies. But unfortunately, we’re not quite as smart as God and we don’t get to call the shots. (And, trust me, if we did, I’m sure we would continually and royally screw things up!)
If we did get our way though, where everyone is nice and no option for hurt or sadness exists, we would need to take away one key ingredient to our humanity — free will. The ability to choose.
I love choice. I get to choose from the smallest to the largest decision — when I wake up in the morning, who I marry, how long I stay in the shower, what I eat for breakfast. Think about it — the ability to choose is an amazing gift. Without it, we’d be robots.
God didn’t want robots. If he did, he would have created robots. God wanted humans, so he made humans. Humans with high-functioning intellect. Humans with an amazing body that works on autopilot without us even thinking about it 99% of the time — heart beating, blood pumping, oxygen flowing. Humans with free will. Humans with the ability to choose.
And our choices affect people, sometimes for generations to come.
It’s like when a parent tells their kid that something is off limits. The parent knows best. The parent is older. He or she has experienced much more life than this little one whom they have the responsibility of protecting and leading. Most times, it would be silly if the child tried to engage in an intellectual debate over why this is not a good thing to do. Most times, the child is so young that he or she does not have the ability to comprehend why this is something bad and why he or she should obey mom or dad. (I’m sure this is where “I told you so” came into play!)
But that doesn’t stop the child from pushing the boundary line. They know what’s right and what’s wrong, but truthfully, they don’t care. They want what they want and that’s that. (Sounds like me a lot of times, to be honest!)
I think that’s a perfect picture of God and me. It’s the perfect picture of God and you. God loves you and wants the best for you. He wants to be your Heavenly Father. He cares immensely for your wellbeing. He knows there are certain things that are not beneficial for you in the long-run. He wants you to steer clear of those things. So he sets up a system where we have right and wrong, where you have the ability to choose.
He has even made it clear how to choose wisely — like giving you the answer key along with a test. The test is called life and the answer book is called Jesus. Open your heart and I guarantee that He will fill you with His love and grace.
Love and grace,
PS. Let me just say this post is not an end-all to the question “Why?”, and my goal is not to convince you to “take a leap” into blind faith. I care about you and I care about truth. Through my own journey I have come to know the God who is the creator of the universe. He loves you exponentially, and that’s why He sent His Son Jesus to live a human life and to die on a cross. I would love for you to open your heart to accept the mysterious reality that though we don’t understand it all, and we won’t understand it all, there is hope and life in Jesus that is only found when you open your heart to His amazing grace.