Why is there suffering? (Part 4)

This is the last of four blogs on why suffering occurs.  Earlier we saw that there is suffering here due to an imperfect planet: storms and disease threaten humanity because of Adam and Eve’s sin.  Another reason that there is suffering is due to our sinful nature: people commit terrible acts against one another.  We exercise our free will and choose evil instead of good.  And until Judgment Day, God will not remove our free will.

That leads us to this last understanding as well: God does not always punish our sins here on earth.  There are consequences for our actions, but we do not suffering immediately due to our sinful acts.  For example, if I yell at my wife and children for no justifiable reason, there is no immediate punishment, such as my car not starting in the morning.  The consequence may be hurt feelings and a certain emotional distance until I ask for forgiveness, but there is not a punishment by lightning strike.  If this were the case, we would all be reduced to nothing, for we sin in thoughts, words, and deeds all the time.

Jesus explained this concept in Luke 13:1-5.  “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’”

As Jesus dissected this “current events” discussion of the latest happenings of His day, He clarified the reason for suffering.  Whether it was man-made evil or natural catastrophe, the people who suffered were not the most wicked members of that town.  All of Jesus’ hearers then, as well as all of us today, will die because of our sinful condition.

This clarification is important because we often think that God is punishing us.  That is not the case; there is not a simple, one-to-one cause and effect explanation for human tragedy.

As an example of people thinking that suffering was punishment for sin, see John 9:1-3.  “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’  ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’”

Here’s another contemporary event that Jesus’s disciples mistook as payback from God: either the parents or the man was to blame for his blindness.  Jesus pointed out that neither had sinned, but that there was a reason for the man’s blindness.  And that revelation leads to the next series of blogs on suffering: what is the reason that God allows suffering, if it is not punishment for our sin?

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