My wife and I recently got rid of cable in our house and have decided to just use the Internet, Netflix, and the public library for our entertainment purposes. I’ve fallen in love with Netflix and have to confess that I have moments of binge watching a series. I love not having to wait through commercials and sit around for an entire week wondering what will happen next, as the series writers always end an episode leaving you on the edge of your seat.
I’ve recently become a bit obsessed with series that have to do with the Medieval era and the Dark ages of England’s history, and the influence of the Church and its struggle for influence and power. It amazes me as I’ve begun to study much of the doctrine and theological understandings of the church throughout this time in history, how much of the evil that happened would be attributed to God’s wrath or judgement in the Earth. Much of the church stood back idly through tragic events such as: plagues, disease, unjust tax systems, pillaging of villages, war, famine, and natural catastrophes and felt very content in attributing these as acts of God’s judgement upon a sinful people. The Church feared intervening in any way as they worried they might be guilty of trying to interfere with God’s Sovereign will.
Now, I want to be clear – I absolutely believe in the Sovereignty of God, and I believe that nothing that happens in life throws a wrench in His ultimate plan for creation. However, throughout Church history there have been many who fall into the trap of what some have called “hyper sovereignty.” I believe this view can easily lead to a lethargic and inactive Church that sits back in the midst of evil and suffering and expects God to intervene; if He doesn’t, then those who believe this viewpoint rationalize that evil must be part of His plan. Many see the evil in the world and their response is to simply hope that Jesus returns quickly and rescues us from the mess we’ve created. The hope of the imminent return of Christ is a beautiful doctrine, but it should never cause lethargy; it should instead cause urgency for action.
I believe that this type of thinking within the Church is not only inconsistent with much of Scripture, but has also caused us to miss the point that we see laid out in Genesis 1:27-29, where God reveals His intent for humanity and this Earth:
“26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
God’s original intent for the Earth was that we would be responsible to work, cultivate, steward and grow that which has been entrusted to us. One of the greatest mysteries in the Kingdom is that He chooses us to co-labor with Him to accomplish His will. It is an active role we have been given. I agree that it would be much easier if He just rid this earth of all evil and suffering, but it is not the way He has chosen. Why? I’m not sure. But I do know that He desires for us to be active partners in helping rid this earth from all evil and suffering.
I know some will think that this sounds like too optimistic of a hope for mankind, and that our responsibility in the garden was surrendered to the devil by Adam and Eve. However, when we look to Scripture, we see that Jesus took back the keys of authority that were surrendered in the garden and then commissioned His disciples after the resurrection to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20), because all authority in Heaven and Earth had been given to Him. This means that the charge in Genesis 1 was back in effect and God’s mandate for humanity had been restored. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:18-19:
“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
Though God intervened in time and space with His Son Jesus, and can continue to intervene whenever and however He chooses, we must realize that we as the Church have the responsibility and the authority to intervene when we see evil. We are His representatives of His kingdom called to co-labor with Him.
So what does this mean for us?
- If you see injustice, you have a responsibility to help alleviate that suffering by all means available to you.
- If you see a person sick, pray for their healing (God’s intervention), but also help them in the midst of their sickness.
- If someone you know is struggling financially, use your financial means to help them.
- If someone is lonely, take time out of your schedule to sit and listen to them.
- If someone is being mistreated, stand up for them. Stand for the outcast, minority, oppressed and disadvantaged people.
Remember, it is God’s original purpose that we properly steward that which He has entrusted to us.
Galatians 6:9 – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Written by: Tim Woodcock