Pastor's Perspective: The gift of free will comes with a price
Bad things happen. Sometimes the bad things happen to bad people, which seems to make sense to us, whether we believe in karma or divine retribution. But sometimes bad things, even the worst things, seem to happen to good people. And that doesn't make sense to us, no matter what our philosophy is.
As a pastor and counselor, I have been asked many times to try to explain why something terrible has happened to the person sitting across from me, or to someone that person loved. People from all walks of life really want an answer to this problem that will make sense of things. There really is a sensible answer to this question, but many people reject it, because it comes from the beginning chapters of the Bible.
According to the Bible, when God created the world, it was a perfect place. There was no disease or suffering, and there was no death. None of these things were part of the world as God designed it, and if he had his way, they wouldn't be part of the world now.
The problem came shortly after the first two people were created. Since God wanted a relationship with Adam and Eve, he created them with free will, the ability to choose, even if that meant they could choose not to love, not to do good, but to do evil instead.
Some question why he would do that, especially if he knew that they would probably use that free will to disobey. But if you had a robot that was programmed to say "I love you" every day, how much would that sentence mean to you? Nothing, right? The robot has no choice. What makes it special when our kids tell us that they love us, is that they have the option to tell us that they hate us, but they choose to love us instead. What makes it special when they obey is that they have the option to disobey, but they choose to obey us instead.
So God gave mankind free will, one rule, and put them in the most perfect spot on planet earth to live. But, of course, that perfection didn't last very long. Adam and Eve both disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. And that act of rebellion against the holy God not only warped and twisted the image of God in each of them, it introduced into the fabric of the world sin, suffering, and death.
Some think that God overreacted to the sin by allowing all of that brokenness to come into the world. But God couldn't allow people who were now rebellious by nature to live forever in prefect peace and comfort. So he allowed those dark things to enter the beautiful world that he had created.
But that's not the end of the story. Even as he sentenced Adam and Eve to a very different life than they had lived before (Genesis 3:16-19), he promised to send a deliverer, who would crush the head of the tempter, restore the relationship between God and mankind, and undo the death sentence that each of us has earned because of our own sins. After long years of preparation, that deliverer, Jesus, finally came, and through his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven accomplished all that God had promised. He crushed the head of the tempter, Satan, by rising from the dead. He restored the relationship between God and everyone who trusts in him as Lord and savior by taking their sin and its penalty on himself. And he undid the death penalty for all who trust in him by enabling each one of us to live forever in God's presence, starting right now, and continuing all the way to eternity in heaven.
Of course, for right now, we still live in a sin-broken world, where lots of people choose to use their free will to choose wrong and to do evil. And we also see the effects of the ravages of sin in the many natural disasters that plague humanity to this day. But those who trust in Jesus can live in hope in spite of all of those things. As Jesus put it, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In t world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (New International Version).