Because God Wants Our Love!
Life can provide some new challenges when you decide you are going to try to live in Christ. The sinful aspect of our nature doesn't 'suddenly' disappear as a result. For me personally, I loved to raise hell as a younger man. I did it well for decades. But sadly, the only thing you earn by sinning and raising hell is a pit of emptiness and a quicker end. Physically and spiritually. My old lifestyle only sped up my arrival at the ultimate stop over (death), and I've recently been trying to slow that bus down a bit.
This process of 'applying the breaks' (so to speak)... has included learning about and preparing a variety of defenses for my faith. It's been a fun process. I love being a trial attorney, and CHristian apologetics is somewhat an extension of that. You see, I couldn't just take a leap of faith and believe that God came down to earth and manifested himself as Christ, made the ultimate sacrifice, and most importantly...defeated death through the resurrection...if I couldn't intellectually defend and justify it. Because lets be honest...it sounds like a fantastical fairy tale. And my heart can not rejoice in what my mind intellectually rejects. But for reasons that this note won't endeavor to address, I am at a point in which I'm intellectually satisfied that all of it actually happened. I'm satisfied that the resurrection is in fact true, and that it provides the main turning point in the physical and spiritual history of human kind.
So lets look at defending the faith. I often hear from non-believers that God can't exist because there is so much evil in the world. And no loving God would allow that kind of evil and suffering to run rampant. But yet, if God created the universe, it seems would've had to have created evil too. But if there's no sin in Him, and evil exists, then perhaps God doesn't exist after all. The syllogism goes as follows:
1) God created everything.
2) Evil is a thing.
3) Therefore, God created evil.
This is a flawed argument. The first problem is that to admit there is evil, presupposes that there is a perfect measure to compare it with. Otherwise, you wouldn't recognize it as evil. It would only be a happenstance of the natural universe. Not right or wrong. So if you can recognize something as evil in the world, there must be God.
But secondly, and more deceptively...the syllogism includes a category mistake that non-believers will try to trip you up with. You see, premise two is wrong. Evil is not a 'thing'. Evil is a real lack of the goodness of God. Here's an illustration: Evil is the same as a donut hole. What is a donut hole made out of? Nothing. But it's real...it exists.
Well...OK...lets say for the sake of argument that I'm right. Evil is a 'lack'...and it's 'real'...but it's not a 'thing'. If God is so magnificently all powerful...why would he create a world in which this 'lack' could not only exist...but flourish in such horrible ways?
The answer that has been making sense to me lately, and is actually beautifully layed out by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, is as follows: (My version is not quite as good as Lewis')
Evil exists because God gave us FREE WILL. Evil came about because God gave us the ability to choose freely. Couldn't he have created a universe in which all we see is him?...with no choice but to fall to our knees and worship? Of course. (Sounds like hell though if you consider it...a world of 'automata' as C.S. Lewis put it...invoking images of Clockwork Orange with our eyelids permanently pulled back.)
But God actually WANTS us to have the opportunity to completely ignore him if we so choose. God is perfect. He is all good. All holy. He is a creator. And if he is going to create...he is going to create the most perfect thing that can possibly be created.
The most perfect thing of which I speak, the most perfect thing that God created, MUST allow for the potential of evil. Why? Because that most perfect thing is TRUE LOVE. And the only way to experience true love...perfect love...altruistic non-conditional love...is when it s FREELY GIVEN. When you freely choose to partake in it...despite the consequences. Anyone who's been in a dysfunctional relationship can attest to the fact that you can't MAKE someone love you. You can't MAKE them stay. But when they choose to freely offer their heart...it's the best gift conceivable. Despite our flaws, God chooses over and over again to dole out unconditional love upon us. Even when we usually don't deserve it, and that gift of love is called GRACE.
God wants our true love in return. And to have our true love, he had to endow in us the ability to choose him freely. The ramifications? There are going to be a lot of people who freely choose to completely tune him out. (And how easy that is to do with all of our modern distractions!!) As soon as you tune him out, say no to God...you've actualized the potential for evil. Why do we have the potential in the first place? Because God wants our true love.
To summarize: In order to allow for perfect love...God created a universe that has free will, and free will allows for the possibility of evil, which we then actualize when we choose to ignore God.
True Love requires a free choice. It requires FREE WILL. And when you freely choose to make the leap of FAITH that allows you to accept God's GRACE, you will experience JOY. (Which transcends the temporal happiness that we so often insist on finding in worldly things.)
And even though I ponder and try to understand these things...(and that's all this essay is...an attempt to better understand God and my purpose)...so often I choose to tune him out. So many times, throughout my day, I'm tempted to look the other way and ignore God. Even though I've received glimpses of unadulterated Joy...I still try to find happiness on my own. In fact, I often can't get through two lines of a silent prayer before my mind wanders off to something else. It seems to be in our nature to worry about our own priorities. To take our own lead, and to play king of our own little worlds. To dictatorially search for happiness as opposed to accepting Joy. And that's why I'm doing my best to give my little kingdom over to God. Giving my faith a go, and reaching out to accept His Grace. Because I'm so damned flawed. I tried to be the ruler of my own world for years and years. It wasn't a success. I'm not a good enough person to be an Atheist. Without a celestial judge on the bench...why bother trying to be good? I certainly didn't.
The answer? For me it lives in the cross and the resurrection. I don't need to figure it all out on my own. I'm not riddled with guilt for my slip ups. I don't need to 'earn' my way to heaven through good deeds and be 'better' than other people. I don't have to repetitively perform outward actions in a certain way, or at a certain time. Nothing that I could possibly do would be more effective than the work that was done for me on the cross. I love Biblical Christianity for that reason. It's all I've seen that offers complete assurance of where I will end up one millisecond after my death, and a personal relationship with a living intimate God while I'm here. My thankfulness and joy at knowing my savior intimately commands my outward acts of faith. Nothing else. I don't act faithfully because I'm hoping to earn a spot in heaven...I do it because Love flows two ways down the spiritual highway. As I see it, the goal of Christianity is not to become a better person by following the law...but to enter into a living relationship with Christ. Only through him will I become lastingly (eternally) transformed. And that transformation will allow me - (Lil ole me) - to become a pinprick of light in the universe, a personal intersection where God's Kingdom and the Earthly Realm are allowed to meet.
Ultimately I do have one job to do. I need to choose to accept that the work has been done for me...the work which was given as a gift of complete Grace and Love. Accept that on my own, I can't accomplish a whole lot. I need to accept that the only way to 'earn' the righteousness of God's grace, is to on my knees, ask for Christ's help. Then everything will eventually fall into place. I've seen a rebirth of my heart in the last couple years. A lot of my old self has indeed died, and a new heart has been reborn. Knowing that I have been Forgiven and Loved by Christ's perfect sacrifice...how can I decide against forgiving and loving everyone around me? Whether they deserve it or not. God knows I didn't deserve it! The resurrection has been alive in my own breastplate, and it's been an amazing feeling. And slowly but surely, I tune out a little bit less from God every day. Through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, my eyes are slowly opening to the goodness of it all. I'm starting to see it man!
Woot! I'm pumped about it. I'm so riddled with flaws...it's ridiculous. But I've got a reason for hope now. And trust me...I looked for it in a million other places before I looked here. This is the last place I thought I needed or wanted to go. It's been a heart changer.