Hard Questions About the Bible

Archive for May, 2012

Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?

There is a perception that once you become a Christian, your life is totally blessed, you have no worries or problems.  But life is still full of problems, why does God let bad things happen?

According to the Bible, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it ended the perfect relationship between them.  My information is from Genesis 2-3.

God commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or they would die.  This would assume that before, Adam and Eve only knew good.

The serpent deceived Eve, saying that “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”.

After they ate, God said “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever”.

God allowed this to happen because Adam and Eve had free will.  They were not puppets, they were free to choose, unfortunately they made the choice that had bad consequences.

The knowledge of good AND evil is probably the cause of much suffering in this world.  Before, man (represented by Adam and Eve) only knew good.  The knowledge of evil and the fact that we have free will are part of the reason that God allows bad things to happen.

Next: Bad Things Happened to Joseph

When Jesus Broke the Rules

Christians often put a lot of emphasis on following God’s commandments and laws, but it might be surprising to learn that at times, Jesus himself ‘broke the rules’.

Exodus 20:8-10 says ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God’.

In Mark 2:23-27 Jesus was with his disciples on the Sabbath day when the disciples were hungry and picked some heads of grain to eat.  This was technically ‘work’, and the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, hoping to trap him.

Jesus referred to the story of when David and his men broke the Jewish law by eating consecrated bread from the Temple.  He concluded that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man (Jesus) is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

In Matthew 12:9-13 Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath.  Again, the Pharisees accused Jesus, and he pointed out that they would rescue a sheep on the Sabbath, but a person is more valuable, so it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

Was Jesus breaking the commandment about keeping the Sabbath?  The Bible says that Jesus was God in human form, so was he in essence breaking his own laws?  Actually, no.

Jesus was trying to make a point that the Pharisees’ hearts had turned cold, and they were legalistically following the laws, but they did not understand the principles behind the laws.  The principle behind the Sabbath commandment is to provide rest and to keep a holy day.  The Jews of the day had resorted to putting more emphasis on following the laws, rather than understanding God’s heart.

There are a lot of dos and don’ts in the Bible, but if you want to gain a better understanding of the Bible, you have to try to understand God’s intentions, and the principles behind the dos and don’ts.

Next: Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?

Rules Don’t Save

Some Christians seem to think that the most important thing about being a Christian is following all the rules and commandments in the Bible.  They not only get caught up in following rules, but sometimes they are intent on imposing them on other people, often to negative reaction.

The Ten Commandments, along with other laws, were given to the Israelites in the Old Testament to give them guides to help them live lives pleasing to God, and to atone for their sins.  According to God’s plan, when Jesus died and was resurrected, he became the sacrifice for sin for those who accepted him.

Romans 3:20-22 No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law, rather through the law we become conscious of our sin.  But apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known, given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

What this means is that people do not receive salvation by following rules, but by accepting Jesus as savior.  This does not mean that the Christian can just disregard the rules.  The rules are still important, they just aren’t the reason a Christian is saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9  For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

Over emphasis on following rules can also lead to ‘self-righteousness’,  because people think they’re righteous just by living ‘holy’ lives.  Living a holy life alone doesn’t save, because according to the Bible, a genuine, humble acceptance of Jesus is what saves.

Titus 3:4  He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Even though the rules are important, over emphasis on following rules can make Christians lose sight of their most important job, to lovingly share the good news of Jesus.

Next:  When Jesus Broke the Rules

Freedom in Rules

Sometimes the Bible seems to be full of rules, don’t do this, don’t do that.

A few examples from the Ten Commandments:  You shall not murder.  You shall not commit adultery.  You shall not steal.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

Galatians 5:19-21  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

Those rules actually are meant to help keep people from harm, live with less problems, and even live more fulfilling lives.  Sins have consequences, and often cause problems in life.

The rules in the Bible at times seem to be restricting, but Christians will say that they are actually freeing.  If there were no speed limits on the highways, some people would consider that freedom, but others would realize that speed limits protect drivers from being hurt or killed.

Christians say that living according to God’s plan helps you to become the person that you were meant to be.  If you live within God’s ‘safety rules’, you actually have less to worry about.  You can have more peace of mind, greater sense of purpose, and boldness to face the world.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self discipline.

Getting hung up in following rules can cause people to miss the point – that following God’s rules can actually provide freedom.

Next: Rules Don’t Save

Why Are Christians So Judgmental?

It is a common perception that Christians are judgmental, that they sometimes look down on other people who sin and/or live different lifestyles.  Does the Bible encourage Christians to judge others?

Matthew 7:1,3,5  Jesus said ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’.

Matthew 18:15,17  Jesus said ‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  If they listen to you, you have won them over’   When Jesus says ‘brother or sister’, he is talking about fellow believers.

Romans 14:10,13  Paul said ‘ Why do you judge your brother or sister?  Or why do you treat them with contempt?  For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister’.

Matthew 22:37,39  Jesus said that the greatest commandment is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself’.

Christians are to judge between good and evil, and even to proclaim how God judges, but this it to be tempered by realization of their own sin, and love for each other and the non-Christians.

The Christian’s main job to share the good news of Jesus, for the Bible says that accepting Jesus as saviour is the way to have relationship with God.  If Christians truly loved others as the Bible teaches, their sharing about Jesus would be more easily accepted, wouldn’t it?  After all, why should you to listen to someone who’s looking down on you?

Christians are to recognize sin and correct it, but sometimes they often get hung up on the ‘don’ts’ and forget or not realize the benefits of the ‘dos’.

Next:  Freedom in Rules