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Suffering and evil

Most folk I know view tragic suffering as evil. But is it?

I think most Bible beleivers consider moral transgression as evil. Although many others don’t (consider Situation Ethics’ / Relativism’s / Pluralism’s denial of a universal morality).

Starting from a biblical basis of morality and ethics, we understand that, being made in the image of God, everyone has an inherent right to be treated with dignity and respect. Such a basis increases our sensitivity to calamities and difficulties of life. When people hurt, we tend to view it as a bad thing. Unless we follow the Community Organizer’s Bible, Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals:

“RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective.)”

In which case the intent is to hurt people to promote a political / social agenda. In contrast the Bible says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. … Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink:… Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21 ASV).

Situation Ethics, Relativism and Pluralism will always provide justification for evil. Biblical ethics will not. Tragic suffering cannot be weighed on the same scale as the evil of moral transgression. Actions/choices with tragic consequences are not necessarily evil. An act with painful consequences may still be morally right.

We live in a time when folk view any obstacle to the fulfillment of their desires as something evil, and thus justify transgressing moral boundaries. Often, they deny the right of the boundaries to exist, as it would cause them tragic suffering to live by them. They practice the old saying: “He who defines controls.” And seek to redefine what is moral, and what is evil.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20–21).

When rational arguments fail, they lean on ‘righteous indignation’ (whether the cause is righteous or not) and painting themselves as victims and/or heroes, seek to take the moral high ground by whatever means necessary. Even to the trampling of others who are also made in the image of God.

This type of justification tends to expand until it justifies anything and everything. As the Post-Modernism expresses it: “Someone is going to get marginalized. It’s your job to make sure it’s not you.”

In contrast, we have Jesus’ example; Jesus who “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus in whom there was no moral transgression.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who … humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:5-9).

Jesus suffered tragically on the cross and calls us to deny ourselves, taking up our own Cross.

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. … Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing” (1 Peter 4:16-19).

Suffering is one thing, evil is another.

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Scott Wiley

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