Perhaps the most basic explanation for sin and suffering – the one that we hear so, so often – is so so flawed. The story goes that suffering came to the world because man sinned. We chose death instead of eternity. We chose destruction instead of life.
We, the people, had control of our own destinies.
Until we let it go.
Until Adam and Eve ate the apple. Until they chose self-awareness, and the knowledge of good and evil. Until, until….
Our lives began to change. And sin and death inflicted the entire planet, such that every animal, every plant, and every person thrown into space and time must suffer.
Suffering is not equal. Some must suffer child-birth, but yet others are put in child labor camps and beaten and starved. Some suffer a broken arm on the school football field, but others are born without any limbs at all.
Some are born within the sound of the church bell and grow up in the arms of their mother and daddy, who treasure them.
Others grow up at the sound of hell, smelling dead bodies in the desert wasteland, and growing up as a child soldier trained to kill.
For some, God seems near, blessing them with 10 or 19 kids over who all have food in their bellies and clothes on their back.
For others, they cry in the snow alone, screaming out to God to rescue, and all they can see is more snow falling down onto their faces.
Animals live with intense suffering, the coyote who runs across the street with the tabby cat in his mouth, the bird who limps day and night, the duck with the broken wing, or the elephant who cries when the humans take away her baby.
The animals in the wild bleed and die constantly, and some have painful defects, with no doctor to visit.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God - Romans 8
And so man is blamed for the big pit in which he awakens himself in. When a girl starts her period, “it’s because Eve.” When a woman gives birth, “it’s because Eve.” When kids pick weeds in the garden, “it’s because Eve.”
When we bury our loved one, it’s because Adam and Eve.
“These people named Adam and Eve, gosh I hate them,” one kid from Sunday school will say. “Oh we must not hate them,” another will explain back, “wouldn’t you choose knowledge too?”
The story seems cruel. Once upon a time, the world was perfect. But we set death in motion, and we all must live with it.
“Why? No one asked me if I wanted to be born?” someone will question. But that question never changes the fact that, for good or bad, we are here.
History is a narrative in the Christian worldview. Genesis to Revelation. First there was man (and along came woman), than sin and death, then the cross, and finally a great return where we are crowned, given better bodies, and all our tears are wiped away. First there was innocence, then rationality, and finally enlightenment.
History is narration. Or history is just eternity itself. Just like the gods of the Greeks, our Jesus is unfolded to us in space and time.
Meaning, value, virtues, great desires, all comes by taping into that source.
That is our narrative, and one that has been told for 2,000 years.
But this is narrative is so fundamentally flawed because science has shown us that it’s not true.
It’s not true.
The story does not go man and woman -> then suffering and death -> then restoration and enlightenment.
The story goes – if this is a story at all – once upon of time there was chaos. Then in suffering life developed and life fought and turned against each other. And life died in an ice and fire. Millions and millions of years of suffering continued in various ways.
And then man and woman stepped in the scene. Or we were hurdled into time as Heidegger will say.
And then we came.
Suffering existed on earth long before us.
This is not to excuse man and woman from their evils. We, above all other creatures, have turned against nature and polluted it. We have contributed to animal extinction.
We, who have the highest reasoning of all (or so we believe), have thrown each other into labor camps, starved each other, and then the rest of the world (or much of it) has turned around and watched it all as TV entertainment.
Yes, we people are to blame for so, so much.
But yet, we are not the center of the story or of the universe or any of it. We are just people, who just like all animals, were born into a world of suffering.
Christians must deal with this. For our theodicy to work, we must acknowledge first of all, that evil happens, and it’s not because Genesis 2. And when Jesus died on the cross, suffering did not end, either. Suffering just is. And so are people. We just exist.
The question is what are going to do about suffering. Are we going to watch TV, or are we going to throw ourselves into the struggle? Are we going to sit back and tell stories, or are we going to write a new one?
As Grant observed, time is history, and we, not God, understand this most of all because we are the ones who live in time and space. We are the ones rooted in the spot.
And so, who are you going to love well today? What kind of history will you create today?
I am not sure that we will create a better future or not. I am not sure the gaps will ever be filled, or the earth quakes ever stop roaring. But I do know that I can comfort those around me. I know I have that in me. This was the message of Jesus- to love others despite it all, over and over and over again.
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27