We all want to rid the world of injustice. But who gets to define what’s just?
Has injustice in the world influenced the way you see God? Why or why not?
Do you believe there is an objective standard of “dignity and justice for all”? If so, where do you believe it came from? Do you think it varies from one culture or society to the next?
During the message, Andy said, “When we reject God because of injustice, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
Is it easier to regard pain and suffering in the world as an argument against the existence of God or as a reminder of our need for God? Explain.
Does it make sense why God provided a way to save humanity from its shortcomings instead of choosing to judge humanity for them? Why or why not?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
So today, I wanna talk specifically about this word, “injustice”. Injustice. The problem of pain and injustice, the problem of pain and suffering and injustice in the world is the biggest problem in the world when it comes to maintaining faith in God. In fact, more people have stepped back from God, not necessarily into atheism. But more people have stepped back from God because their inability to reconcile a good and loving God with the injustice, and the pain, and the suffering in the world than any other topic. It is the biggest deal. But what you need to know, it’s primarily a big deal for western people and for first-world country people, that it’s primarily a problem for Americans and Canadians. It’s primarily a problem for Europeans, because for those of you who’ve traveled around the world, you’ve gone into some difficult areas of the world, or you’ve seen extraordinary poverty, in the midst of extraordinary poverty, you often find extraordinary faith, not extraordinary doubt.
But the argument goes pretty much like this. If he’s good, he would. If he could, he would. If he’s good, he would. If he could, he would. If God is good, he would get rid of all pain, suffering and injustice. If God could, he would get rid of all pain, suffering and injustice. So he either lacks good or he lacks could or maybe the more logical conclusion is, there is no God. If there is a good God, and there’s so much pain and suffering in the world, obviously he can’t do anything about it, which means he’s not Almighty. Which means, there is no… Which means he’s not really God. So if there’s a problem with his ability or a problem with his willingness, clearly there is no good God controlling and running the Universe. There is in fact, no God.
Now today, I want to address specifically the logic behind this assumption. But before I do, I need to do a footnote. I wanna caution those of you who have ever leveraged suffering in the world to argue against God, or who have ever leveraged suffering in the world to argue against your personal relationship with God. If you have ever leveraged suffering, how could there be a good God if pain and suffering, and all the bad things in the world? If you’ve ever done that, I just wanna say something to you directly. Proceed with caution when commandeering other people’s pain to build your case against God because it’s insulting. And you don’t mean for it to be insulting. But it is insulting because the truth is, suffering for many, many people in the world actually ends up being a path that leads to God.
And this is one of the things that the new atheists are so guilty of. They just cast this wide net, “Look at all the pain and the suffering in the world. And because there’s all those pain and suffering in the world, there can’t be a good God”, which I would say, “You need to talk one by one to all the people who are experiencing pain and suffering in the world. And what you might discover is this. That extraordinary suffering often leads to extraordinary confidence in God. So be careful when you use other people’s pain and suffering to draw your conclusions about God.”
Now that’s just a footnote. Today, what I really want to talk about is simply this, that injustice and suffering in the world, injustice and suffering in the world is not really an argument for or against really anything; that pain and suffering in the world is not an argument against God’s existence. It’s actually, as we’re gonna see, a reminder that pain and suffering and injustice in the world is not an argument against something. It is a reminder, and it is a reminder that we actually need God. In fact, there is no rational argument against the existence or involvement of the God of Jesus based on injustice in the world. Now, it’s an emotional argument, and when you hear people make it, especially based on their own personal suffering, you get it. I get it. I understand it. How could a good God allow? How could a loving God allow? How could a just God allow? I totally get that. I think all of us have enough empathy to be able to insert into someone’s question and their pain. But past the emotion and past the incident, there’s actually no argument to be made against the existence of the God of Jesus.
There is no rational argument against the God that Jesus presented to us based on injustice in the world. Now, there is an argument to be made, there is an argument to be made against other non-Christian versions of God based on pain and suffering, but there is no argument to be made against God as presented to us by Jesus based on pain and suffering. And here’s why. Because Christians, and we talked about two weeks ago, three weeks ago, Christians have never made an argument for God’s existence based on a world where bad things never happen to good people. In other words, there’s never been an argument made by Christians that says, “You know what? A good God would not allow bad things to happen to good people. Since bad things never happen to good people, there must be a good God.” No one’s ever made that argument. A good God would not allow injustice to happen to a just person. Since injustice never happens to just people, clearly there must be a just and good and fair God. No one has ever made that argument. So the whole idea of throwing up all the injustice in the world in God’s face to somehow say either, obviously God doesn’t exist, just doesn’t hold water. It’s emotional. It’s powerful. It’s moving. It’s just not rational. There is no argument like that.
In fact, injustice in the world, injustice in the world calls into question the justice of God, not the existence of God. This is a really, really, really big deal. Injustice in the world, because there is injustice in the world, and Christians claim to worship a good and holy and right God who’s all about right things and all about love, but the fact that there is injustice in the world, the fact that there’s pain and suffering in the world, it calls into question the justice of God but not the existence of God, which means, it makes more sense to be angry than atheist. It makes more sense to be angry with God. “God, if you’re so just and good, why the injustice?” It makes perfect sense to be angry with God. It doesn’t make any sense to be atheist based on pain and suffering in the world. There is a difference between arguing for existence and examining your personal experience. The existence of God is different than your personal experience from God.
Okay. So moving on. So here’s the big question, alright? This is something you need to wrestle to the ground. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why do we assume if there is God, God must be good and just? Why do we assume, “Well, it can’t be God. Look at all the pain and suffering in the world!” Okay, wait, wait! There’s a presupposition there. The presupposition is if there is God, God must be good and just and since bad things happen and unjust things happen, there must not be God or God’s not being God or God’s not behaving but this is a really important question, especially for us Americans. Especially for Europeans, Canadians, those of us who kind of live in sort of first-world thinking. Where did we get the idea in the first place that God must be good and God must be just? Because, you see, to leverage goodness and justice to argue against God, to leverage goodness and justice to argue against God or to make accusations against God is to assume that God is good and God is just but says who?
You? Did you just make that up? If you just made that up, you can’t hold that against God. It’s like making something up about me and holding it against me and I say, “Wait. I never claimed to be that to begin with.” The pharaohs did not believe that gods were good and just. Julius Caesar did not believe that gods were good and just so why do we assume… Why do we assume if there is God, God must be good and just. And the answer is, someone told us that. That’s why we believe that. When you were a child, probably, somebody told you, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.” It doesn’t even actually rhyme but it was close.
So somebody told you but here’s the next question. The someone who told you that God is good and just, where did they get that? Now this is a big deal. They did not get that by observing nature. Nature is not good and nature is not just and nature is not fair. They didn’t get that from the ancient gods.
In fact, the ancient gods, the reason people believed in the ancient gods was because of evil and injustice. They looked at evil and injustice in the world and tried to come up with an explanation and they blamed it on the gods. Injustice and evil in the world was evidence of the ancient gods and here’s the thing that you’ve got to wrestle to the ground and look up here a second. If you walked away from faith because of pain and injustice, I am sure… I am absolutely sure that if I were to hear your story, I would say, “Who could blame you?” So I’m not blaming you. If you have stepped away from Christianity, you haven’t stepped into the category of atheist because you’re just not sure you can live that way but you’re caught in the middle and your big problem or one of your big problems is the pain and suffering in the world, I completely get that. I just want you to consider the fact that maybe you stepped away unnecessarily because the justice and dignity for all God that we all want to believe exists… The justice and dignity for all God… Version of God was introduced to the world by Jesus. Before Jesus, there were local gods who loved the local people. In fact, the local gods didn’t even love the local people. They just somewhat protected the local people, played with the local people if the local people would make the appropriate sacrifice.
But until Jesus came along, there was no concept of a God who loved everybody on the planet. We are so used to hearing this we just don’t… It doesn’t even affect us anymore. The whole notion… John writes this down and some people think Jesus said this. Some people think John, this was his observation. It doesn’t matter. When John wrote, “For God so loved the… I wanna say Jews but I think after my time with Jesus, I think it’s bigger than that. “For God so loved the… ” I’m just telling you, look it up for yourself. Jesus brought us this idea. Whoever told you that God is a good and just God that should treat everybody fairly and everybody has dignity, whether they know it or not, that idea was introduced to the world through Jesus and here’s the amazing thing. It was introduced by Jesus at a time when there was neither justice nor dignity for anybody. The rich ruled over the poor. The powerful ruled over the non-powerful. If you had the gold, you made the rules. Might made right. In a world where there was neither dignity… Women had no place in society. Children, they weren’t even named because they may not live. In a world where there… By modern standards, there was no dignity, there was no fairness, there was no justice.
Into that world stepped Jesus who claimed that every single person had dignity and that God loved every single person in the world and here is the most amazing thing of all.
Jesus’s first century followers, who paid dearly for their faith, who were treated incredibly unjustly, who were persecuted for essentially believing something… Jesus’ first century followers embraced… This is huge… Embraced a God that was good and just in a culture characterized by injustice. How do they do that? Let me just say this. If you left Christianity over pain and suffering, please pay attention to what I’m about to say. If the Christian God had been so fragile as to be able to be argued out of existence based on injustice, the Christian God would’ve never made it out of the first century because for 100, 200, almost 300 years, the Christian God was persecuted or his followers were persecuted. So Christianity, is not so fragile as maybe you think. Oh, there’s pain and suffering in the world there can’t be Jesus, God, why, why, why? How do you think Jesus, God survived the first century? There may be something you weren’t told, there may be something you missed.
The fact that all these years later there are Christians all around the world speaks to the strength of the theology that surrounds what the God that Jesus brought to the world is like. So John, many years after his time with Jesus, writes these words. We looked at just a snippet of it last week. He says, “Dear friends,” he’s talking to Christians, “let us love one another.” Now, why would we love one another? Because it’s just the nice Judean Galilean thing to do. Because we need to be civil, everybody just needs to love one another. No, they didn’t think that way back then. “Dear friends let us love one another.” Why? For love comes from God. What do you mean love comes from God, you mean the Gods? No, not the Gods, not the God of that nation. Love finds its source in God my friends. This was a staggering ‘stop the show’, ‘what in the world are you talking about’ concept and John is writing this at a time when his life was at risk. At a time when he and his friends were being treated unjustly. “Love one another, love is from God.” Whoever does not love does not know our God because God is love.
See if you were brought up, taught that God is love and there’s a loving God or maybe you’re not a religious person at all you just think I just believe in a loving God, I just believe in a loving God, I just believe in a loving God, you need to understand that is not original with you and it wasn’t original with the person that told you. This concept was introduced in the world at a time of extraordinary injustice by Jesus. This is where the love, God came from as well as our basis of justice because our basis of justice is that every single person has inherent dignity. Now, again, I’ve said this but I’m gonna go back and say it again. This is not natural, if you exclude God from the conversation and just go with what’s natural you do not arrive here. Okay, it is not natural, nature is not just, nature is extraordinarily unjust. In fact let me give you the words of an expert in theoretical physicist and cosmologist. You’ve all heard of Stephen Hawking, at a lecture in Cambridge back in the 1990s, he said the following and his implications of this are staggering.
I wish I could read you the whole quote it’s so long it’s all over the internet so this is easy to find. Here’s what he said, “The terror, the terror that stalks my mind is that we have arrived on the scene because of evolution, because of naturalistic selection”. Well Stephen Hawking, Dr. Hawking, why does that keep you up at night, why does that give you terror? And, natural selection assumes natural rejection which means we have arrived here because of our aggression. Here’s what he’s saying and you can find the full statement, it’s all over the place. He says this, he goes on to say this, “Our only hope for mankind, the only hope for mankind is that we are able to move to other planets in our galaxy and split up. Because if we don’t split up we will eventually annihilate ourselves”. Why would you say that? Because of the proliferation of nuclear weapons? No, because someone who deeply, deeply, deeply believes in natural selection understands the nature of natural selection and the nature of natural selection is not dignity and it’s not justice and it’s not injustice. It’s completely ambivalent to those things, it’s neutral on those things, those aren’t even categories.
That natural selection is survival of the fittest and regardless of what we think and regardless of what we think we value because value is an illusion, mind is an illusion, the will is an illusion, at the end of the day according to someone who deeply believes in nature and what is natural. We will eventually destroy ourselves. Natural law, natural law, natural selection, know nothing of justice, love or dignity at best, at best, natural selection knows of tolerance. Now, the implication for this is staggering. I don’t even know how to say this in a way that is as compelling as this idea is compelling because this is an overwhelming thought, okay. The implication of all this is staggering, you can turn it around and reverse it and say this. The best way, I mean if you really want to get rid of injustice there is a way to get rid of all injustice, the best way to rid the world of injustice is just rid the world of God. Because when God is gone injustice leaves with him, the God of Jesus that is because justice leaves with him. If we could just get rid of God, if we could just get rid of this haunting sense of right and wrong, just and unjust, dignity, fair and unfair. If we could just get rid of all that we could get rid of injustice and we would get rid of justice because they would just walk out the door with God.
And what would be left would be nature, which knows neither justice nor injustice. Once there is no objective standard for justice, injustice ceases to exist. And, do you know what we’re left with when we have no objective standard for justice? We’re left with my justice. And we’re left with your justice. And we’re left with Nazi justice and ISIS justice and majority justice and Klan justice and nature’s justice and street justice and rich justice and power justice. You have your justice and I’ll have mine and don’t you dare tell me it’s unjust because it’s up to you. That’s just your justice. I have my justice. We have nothing and we have no one to appeal to when God walks out the door. When we reject God because of injustice in the world, we don’t solve injustice. Look, when we reject God because of injustice in the world, we don’t solve injustice, we lose the definition. So, what does the God of Jesus have to say about all this.
If the God of Jesus really is love, if the God of Jesus really loves everybody and obviously must, then therefore be concerned by all the injustice in the world. Does the God of Jesus address this? Does he have a solution and the answer is yes. But we don’t like it.
If we were to say, “Okay God, we don’t want you to leave because you take justice and injustice with you. We don’t want you to leave because we need some sort of ‘outside of me’ standard to appeal to.” But what is the solution? Is there a solution for pain and suffering and injustice in the world? The answer is yes.
Here’s the deal. See, Jesus brought us God’s love. But that’s not all he brought. We love this part. In fact, if you’re, “I just believe God is love, I just believe God is love, I just believe God is love.” Again, you got that ultimately from Jesus, that’s not all he said. Because the Jesus who said, “God is love”, also taught, fortunately, that God is just. And here’s the part that creeps us out. But you got to take the whole thing or none of it. The part that creeps us out is that Jesus could not have been any more clear. In the future, there will be the very thing we accuse God of neglecting, justice for all. But, there is no justice without judgment. And this is when our culture runs for cover, “I don’t want a judgmental God, I don’t want to believe in judgment, I don’t want a judgmental God, I don’t want a judgmental God.” Look up here. If you don’t want a God who embraces judgment, you do not want justice. If you don’t want a God, that in some capacity embraces judgment, you do not want a just God. You want something that cannot necessarily exist. And you know why we resist the whole idea of judgment? Do you know why resist the whole idea of God being a God of any kind of judgment?
It’s because in your heart and in my heart and in all of our hearts, we know we fall short. This idea exposes my hypocrisy. You see, I want justice for you. I want mercy for me. I want justice for you, I want you to pay for everything you’ve done to me, everything you’ve done to my kids, everything you’ve done to my family. As soon as we introduce the idea that God is the God that has to bring judgment because justice requires judgment. We all get nervous, but we’re not nervous for the people who’ve offended us. Who are we nervous for? I’m nervous for me. And this is why the Gospel is the perfect narrative. This is why the Gospel survived the first, second, and third century. This is why you can’t help but look up and think, “Who in the world would have made that up?” This is when the story of the Gospel becomes so pre-eminent, and so powerful, and so overwhelming.
Because when God saw the state of this world that he created. And when God saw that our freedom took us in the direction he suspected it would take us. When God saw that we all fell short. Come on, we all fell short of our own standards. If there’s a God, you know you fall short of God’s standards. You can’t even keep all the laws of the United States of America. We know we fall short and into a world that fell short, God did not send a judge. He sent a Savior. Jesus said it. He said, “For I have not come to judge the world.” Although the world needs judging. I did not come to judge the world even though the world is full of evil. I did not come to judge the world, even though my nation is being treated with extraordinary injustice by Rome. I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. This is why, come on. If you stepped away from Christianity, you need to reconsider it because you want an objective standard of justice and nobody gave it to us like Jesus. But God in his infinite mercy, this is the power of the Gospel. God and his infinite mercy, before his chose to judge, he provided a way to save. Isn’t that amazing?
That’s amazing. Listen, and while Jesus’s on the planet he told lots and lots of parables and a lot of them had to do with the Kingdom of God later and one of the parables he kind of snuck in, he said, “Look, once upon a time… ” A parable is a story that didn’t really happen, you just make it up to make a point. So he made up a story to make a point. There was once a woman, a poor, poor woman who lived in a little village and she couldn’t get justice from the judge and every day she would go and bang on his door and say “I need justice, I need justice, I need justice”. And the judge in the parable did not care about people and didn’t fear God,
And day after day after day, she would bang on the judge’s door and she’d wait outside the restaurants and she’d wait for him in the parking lot and every single day she begged and begged and begged, “Justice, justice, justice, hear my case, hear my case. Lean in my direction, I need justice, I need you to be my judge and hear my case”.” And in the parable, the judge decides you know what, the only way to get this woman off my case and off my front porch and out of the parking lot, to keep from following me around, is to hear her case. And as everybody’s leaning in, Jesus says. “Now listen, if you think a wicked unbelieving judge could finally be talked into the justice a woman deserved, how much more your Father in Heaven?” And he says this, “And will not God bring about justice? Not now, I’m not here to judge, I’m here to save. But will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night, will he keep putting them off, will he keep putting them off?” If you feel put off, Jesus understands at times we feel put off, he says, “Well, will he keep putting them off?” He said, “I tell you, he will see it that they get justice and quickly however.” And this is the question for you and for me.
However, when the son of man comes again. When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth? When the son of man comes will he find men and women who like those first-century Christians, saying, “You know what? We’re not getting justice in this life but we love the God of justice and mercy. We’re not getting justice in this life, but we love the fact that our unjust deeds have been forgiven.” Will he find faithfulness on the earth? We want a God of love, who cares deeply about justice but who doesn’t judge. And my friends, that is impossible.
If you reject the God of Jesus, you reject the basis for justice. If you reject the God of Jesus, you reject the basis of justice and you reject the basis of human dignity. And you know what you’re left with? Biology. And biology will never bring you dignity. Biology allows you to have justice as you see justice, but if you embrace Jesus, you get dignity now and justice later. And besides, come on, before you just write this whole thing off, if anyone, if anyone had a reason to stop believing in God because of injustice, it was Jesus. Because the man who taught us that all people have inherent value and are worth dying for was executed by those he died for. Think about that. He was executed by the very race that he came to give his life for. The man’s definition of good and just, which informs your definition of good and just was treated unjustly. Evil, come on. Evil and injustice are not arguments against the existence of God.
They are evidence that we desperately need God. That we need grace, that we need mercy. In fact, I know that this is a kind of a bold statement to make, but just think about it. If you genuinely care about justice, which I believe you do, if you genuinely care about justice, you should want Christianity to be true. Because the evil and the injustice in this world, they are nagging reminders that something is wrong and somehow, somehow we know, we know that something is wrong. Evil and injustice cause each of us, I mean isn’t it true when you hear about pain and suffering in the world, isn’t there something that you just kind of inherently look up and you long? Isn’t there an ache in your belly, isn’t there something in you that’s like, “Oh, not again”? Evil and injustice cause each of us to long for justice. Look up here, that long for justice that is not even attainable in this world. It’s something that only a just God could one day provide.