As a pastor the most common question people ask me goes like this: “If there is a God, and if that God loves people as you say he does, then why do tragedies happen in our world?” I understand the question. I really do. I have lived through enough difficult experiences to fully empathize with that question and to have asked it myself on occasion.
Some people would answer by saying that there are some things that are just hard to understand and that the purposes of God do not always make sense to us humans who live here below. (That is what I usually say to my kids when I am too tired to give a proper explanation to their question.) However, I disagree with those type of “its-deeper-than-we-can-understand” answers at least for this question. I don’t believe that the question of the Haitian tragedy is wrapped up in the unsolvable mystery of God. In fact, I believe that God tells us exactly why this kind of thing happens. We may not like the answer but I think the answer to this question is practically the first thing God says in the Bible. In the third chapter of Genesis (“the book of beginnings” located at the beginning of the Bible) it tells us why the Haitian tragedy happened. As I said, the answer may not sit well with you but I believe the answer is very clear. The answer is a problem of a universal condition that exists upon our world. The condition is a kind of theological entropy. This condition began because of a decision by humans to disobey God. It is because of sin. Now hang on. I am not turning back the clock and saying that sin is the cause of every problem in your life or that people are so overcome with sin that there is nothing good within them or that somehow people caused this tragedy. There are two universal conditions described in Genesis. One is sin. The other is much more positive and aptly explains why the world has responded to the Haitian crisis with humanitarian help and kindness and concern. In the chapter before, Genesis 2, God says that he created people in His own image. That means that in every person there is the image of God. Every person has at the very least quality and purpose. No one is without value and unable to do good. So these two conditions help us to understand why, often Christians act worse than they should (the universal condition of sin) and why people with God often act better than they should (image Deo).
Sin mars our world and causes both people and the creation to act in self-destructive ways. Yes, creation, our world, is self-destructing. Our planet is broken. And sin caused it because God did not make it this way originally. In fact, all of history is moving towards the redemption (repairing) of the broken planet … and our broken lives too. The other thing Genesis shows us is that people have a free choice. When God made us he did not insist that we follow Him or obey Him. We get to chose. Now, we don’t get to chose the consequences but we do get to make the choice of whether we do something in alignment with God’s plan or not.
Haiti is the result of our planet self-destructing. We live on a broken planet and tragedies happen when this world moans and groans from the pain of sin in it and upon it. Our world is fragile, and we are even more fragile as its inhabitants. God’s plan is to fix it all. But that won’t happen until some point in the future. Why does God not do it sooner? Well, when it does happen, the new world … the new heaven … will only be occupied by those who do not have sin. Otherwise sin would do to the new world what is has done to this world. And God does not want that to happen. Hang on, are you saying some people have no sin? No, we all live with the universal condition of sinfulness as I mentioned earlier. However, the Bible goes on to say, thay your sin can be paid for. From God’s perspective, removed from your life as far as he sees you. So God is putting off restoring this world because he does not want anyone to get left behind. Because when God starts to redeem this world only those who have their sin paid for can go into it with Him. So, you either come into the new world or you are left to the other choice … a place absent from God’s redemptive work. The place people often called Hell.
That is where Jesus comes in. The Christian church has taught that Jesus is the way we get to heaven. Why, because as I have already said, sin has to be removed before God can take us into the new world we all long to live in … free from the self-destructive world … and its tragedies that we now experience. When we ask Jesus to take away our sin, he does. It seems too simple. Actually, it is not simple, if you understand what Jesus did and what it cost him but I will not get into that here. For the recipient it is quite simple. It is a simple but all important choice. You just trust and put your faith in Jesus.