Recently a dear Asian friend who was a missionary for years in Vietnam sent me a letter she’d received from a friend of hers there. Her friend had been sent a blistering letter from someone she knew, disparaging God. The antagonist letter against God was like this:
“First things first: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Are we talking about the same “loving” God who tormented Job just to show off to some guy named Satan which He actually created Himself? The same God that demanded all first born babies to be killed in one country because He didn’t approve what one guy was thinking? That doesn’t sound like a loving dude to me, more like a blithering a##hole. What’s your take on this?”
So my Asian friend was hoping I’d have some kind of answer to the letter. And when you’ve lived a life of Christian service, you end up hearing a lot of things, whether they are difficult questions or just things like this. So I wrote back to her:
It’s a big subject and not a very original one since this kind of thing has been talked about and debated for centuries. As far as Job goes, it was very much an “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord” situation. (Romans 8:28) God certainly wasn’t “tormenting” Job to show off to the Devil! That’s a really dirty way to see God’s dealings with Job there.
The truth is that Job had some deep-rooted problems. He was “good” in many ways but also he was very aware of his goodness and boasted about it a lot. So God, in His love, was taking away nearly everything from Job. This (for one) ended up showing Job’s true, deep faith in God.
But at the last Job got to where he changed his views on what a great person he was. So it worked out to be something good in his life, making him a wiser, humbler man who loved the Lord even more and his story has been a witness to humanity for nearly 4000 years. “No chastening for the present seems joyous but grievous. Nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby”. (Hebrews 12:11)
Actually Hebrews chapter 12 is the classic chapter about God’s dealings with humanity and how that at times He chastens us. Jesus said something similar, “Every branch that bears fruit he purges it that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2) Anybody who has children usually knows that you can’t just let a child totally do their own thing without guidance and that usually means there has to be repercussions when a child does something they shouldn’t. This is just life and humanity and the world we live in. Even animals sometimes chasten their children in order to teach them and to protect them from danger.
It sounds like whoever wrote that note believes in God. They just don’t like Him. But if you’re going to blame God for those things he writes there, by the same token you have to also give Him credit for all the good and the beauty in this world.
Every sunset, every delicious fruit, every beautiful woman or handsome man, all the incredible beauty of this world that we experience every day was made by the same One that the person there is accusing of being bad.
God is love but also He is a God of righteousness. This has to include not only reward for doing the wise, loving thing but also recompense for doing the cruel, hurtful thing. Some folks blame God for allowing Hitler. And then they accuse God for things like this person has said or written to your friend. For some people, when a cat catches a mouse or a sparrow eats a bug, they say, “Oh how cruel!”
But this is the world we live in, full of beauty but also at this time there are things like cruelty and even one species living off of another. But then, that’s what Jesus’ sample was to all of us. He said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) And then that’s what he did, He laid down His life for us all. But He was perfect, sinless and God raised Him from the dead. That’s why Jesus is so special and unique.
Yes, there is cruelty in this world and at times God has had to use some drastic measures. For those who want to focus on the cats catching the mouse or some of the more drastic scenes in the Old Testament, then they can compose a patchwork of pieces that would seem to make God to look bad. But then they have to leave so very many pieces of the puzzle out in order to force those few pieces into the picture they have come up with.
God is love. God gave His only Son. It’s a beautiful world and we have a wonderful life. And it comes from Him. People who chose to look at God as a cruel tyrant are really missing the big picture. All we can do is to witness to them, try to share the love of God with them and by our samples show them God’s love through our lives.
Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it takes many years. Sometimes people change overnight. But their negativity and accusations against God really shouldn’t have much effect on our knowledge of God since we know so much through the Word and also in His daily dealings with us.
God bless you, I hope this helps and perhaps helps your friend also. Great hearing from you, lots of love from Mark
And maybe this will be a help to you or someone you know. This type of accusation and/or question has been around a long time. It’s part of our battle of faith to know how to “be always ready to give an answer to every one a reason of the hope that is within us.” (I Peter 3:15)