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Monday, June 19, 2017

You Don't Owe Me Nothin'

Yeah, yeah, bad grammar, but it's a line from a song, so don't give me any grief over it; I didn't write it. But there is a point here.

One of the biggest, most difficult complaints offered throughout history about God is "Why do bad things happen to good people?" or "If there is a God, why is there evil?" It's a dilemma. And not merely for Christianity. If there is Allah, why do bad things happen? If there is Jehovah, why do bad things happen? If there is any all-powerful, all-good being, why do bad things happen? The dilemma is obvious. Reasoning from our experience -- there is evil -- either this being is not all-powerful or not all-good.

Now, lots of sound and ink have been expended making good (and bad) defenses on this topic. (Hint: A "bad" defense of God in the face of evil is "Well, it just happens; He can't stop it.") But I'm addressing here an underlying thought, a basic concept here that appears to often be overlooked. The premise behind, "Why would God allow bad things to happen to good people?" is 1) there are good people and 2) God owes us something better. The truth is this mentality harkens all the way back to the Garden:
"God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:5)
It's our core problem -- "I will make myself like the Most High." (Isa 14:14) We have made ourselves into idols. As such, God owes us. He owes us respect, comfort, peace, love, all the good things we think He ought to give us. When these don't come our way or when we lose what we have of it, He's wrong. He has failed to meet His obligations to us. Faith breaks down. Skepticism builds. Opposition replaces submission.

Here's the thing. God does offer us lots of good. He made us in His image (Gen 1:26; Gen 9:6), loves the world (John 3:16), offers love, joy, peace (Gal 5:22), and so on. He does all that. What we fail to see and, therefore, what we've lost is grace. Paul says that grace is not grace when it's owed (Rom 11:6; Rom 4:4). When we stand on entitlement rather than unmerited favor, we've subverted grace. And the loss of grace is a harsh loss.

I'm not hoping to focus on "You don't owe me nothin'". I'm not trying to point out how bad we are. What I want us to grasp is how big God's unmerited favor towards us actually is. Yes, He shows us kindness, but not because He owes it to us. And that makes it huge. I'm sure you've seen this in microcosm in human life. You buy a child a gift. He or she isn't particularly grateful because, after all, it was their birthday or Christmas or something and ... well ... they had it coming. I don't want to be that. I want to exult in the vast grace of God, His unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor. It is so much bigger when it isn't owed.

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