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If God Is Real, Why Is There So Much Injustice?

Written By Asiri Fernando, Sri Lanka

Asiri graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, USA with a Master of Divinity and is now working for Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. Asiri is a speaker, Bible teacher and a singer songwriter. Asiri blogs at http://asirifernando.wordpress.com.

We live in a world that’s filled with suffering and injustice. Every day, we read about how racism, rape, and abuse of power is on the rise. It’s no surprise that one of the common objections to Christianity is, “If God is real, why is there so much injustice?”

In my time as a youth worker, I’ve found that some of the deepest suffering that we have to go through often comes at the hands of those around us—whether in the form of being bullied, suffering from abuse, or even being persecuted for the faith.

In the face of such injustice, how can Christians cling on to their faith and not allow these situations to embitter them?

As I groan with God at the pains of this world (Romans 8:22), I am convinced there are two marvelous, unshakable truths about God that can anchor us through storms: the truth that God is sovereign over every circumstance, and that His love is present in the midst of our suffering.

In Genesis 37-50, we see a beautiful picture of God’s sovereignty, or absolute control and rule over all things, painted in the life of Joseph. Throughout Joseph’s life, he was committed to living rightly, but he suffered injustices in various forms.

As a young man in his father’s house, Joseph received the love and blessing of his father, but his brothers hated him, mistreated him, and sold him off into slavery.

In Potiphar’s house in Egypt, Joseph conducted himself with holiness, yet He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.

Even in prison, he was trustworthy and kind to those around him. However, his kindness was forgotten, and he was left in prison (ESV: “the pit”) for two years!

Joseph was repeatedly and severely a victim at the hands of people who unjustly served him hatred, mistreatment, and abuse. Yet Scripture also makes it clear that in all that Joseph went through, God was with him and blessed him. Many of us might wonder, “Can we consider all that Joseph has gone through a blessing?”

Eventually, God raised Joseph to the highest office in Egypt, where Pharaoh tells Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:44). In the midst of all that he was going through, Joseph probably would never have imagined that he would one day be exalted to this position—but his story is evidence of God’s perfect plan, sovereignty, and love in the midst of suffering.

It is while Joseph is holding this high position, that his brothers come to Egypt, completely at the nation’s mercy to help them survive a famine in their homeland (Genesis 42:1-6). Despite the opportunity Joseph has to exact revenge on the brothers that betrayed him, the story goes on to show Joseph’s great love for his own brothers—a love that had no room for bitterness (Genesis 45:15).

At the end of the story, Joseph makes two great statements of faith in response to his brothers’ pleadings for mercy that can help us understand how we can respond to the injustices we see in the world, especially the ones that are personally inflicted on us:

 

1. Am I in the place of God?

After the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers expected wrath from him, but instead Joseph’s response was, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19a).  That response made it clear that Joseph harbored no bitterness or anger against his brothers—but more importantly, that he recognized that it wasn’t his role to bring about justice. That was God’s part.

One thing that breaks the hold of bitterness against those who have harmed us, is knowing that God will ensure justice against all offenses. This is why Paul says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). The world is unjust but God is perfectly just and has also “set a day for his final justice to take place” (Acts 17:31). This is a truth which answers a lot of questions and releases us from any unease and bitterness about the seeming injustice we are experiencing.[1]

 

2. You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good

Joseph’s second statement of faith is, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .” (Genesis 50:20a).

We all suffer because of sin—at times suffering comes about through evil systems, unfortunate circumstances, our own flesh, or direct attacks from Satan. The last season in my life was a difficult one, in which I experienced prolonged illness and injury to my family, ministry obstacles, and dark nights of the soul.

But what kept me going was the knowledge that God is sovereign and is working! He is moving things forward. He is in absolute control even during the darkest moments of our lives. Oh, the joy of knowing that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)! So we persevere with total trust in a God who is faithful. His promises are true. His steadfast love is better than life.

 

There is good to look forward to (even if it’s eternal)

As we can see from the life of Joseph, accepting the sovereignty of God provides a deep sense of security and peace, even amidst times of difficulty and unrest. The good will come, in this life, and also most definitely in the next. 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure (through hardships), we will reign with him”. What kind of grace is this? Like Joseph who reigned in the courts of Egypt, we will also one day reign with Christ.

Fixing our eyes on the sovereignty of God strengthens us to be obedient through hardships. We know that God is working for our good. He is greater than our circumstances. Therefore, we can be glad because we know that “the Lord reigns” (Psalm 97:1, 99:1) and He will guard “the lives of his faithful ones” (Psalm 97:10).

Joseph’s life might have been tainted with suffering, but it was also a life that was under the absolute control of God, who used Joseph’s circumstances to fulfill His purposes—for Joseph’s good, for the salvation of many, and for His glory.

This is why we can trust Him even when we’re faced with unjust circumstances—in His sovereignty, He will use them for our good.

 

[1] We also know the glorious truth that Jesus bore our punishment and satisfied the wrath of God on the cross, a justice borne by Christ, and a beautiful justification (no condemnation) appropriated to our enemies who turn to Christ. Our greatest desire when loving our enemies is to see them turn to Christ.

Editor’s Picks: Best Articles on Apologetics

All of us have grappled with doubts and questions about God.

Here are our top articles on Apologetics, exploring some of the biggest and most common questions we all have about Christianity.

Editor’s Picks: Top 3 Articles | Apologetics

All of us have grappled with doubts and questions about God.

Why should I believe in God? How can I trust the Bible? If Christianity is true, how do we make sense of the brokenness that we see?

These questions reveal our deepest fears and struggles, as well as the deepest desires of our hearts—for purpose, identity and belonging. For some, these questions make it difficult for them to trust God. For others, these questions help strengthen their faith as they examine the evidence for what they believe in.

We may never get the answers to all our questions—but there are some fundamental truths that we can be certain of. Here are our top three articles on Apologetics, exploring some of the biggest and most common questions we all have about Christianity.

 

1. What If Christianity Was A Lie?

Although I’ve been a Christian for a long time—and brought up as one—I must admit that I have occasionally toyed with the questions: What if Christianity was a lie? What if everything I believed in turned out to be untrue? What if there was really no God or Jesus, and I had been believing in nothing all this time? What would it mean for me? What would I do?

 

2. Why Did God Create A World That He Knew Was Going To Go Wrong Eventually?

Why didn’t God “delete” the earth and start all over again? After all, another six days’ work wouldn’t have been too difficult, would it? Of course, you could argue that knowing man, Creation 2.0 would probably have gone down the same route, anyway. So the question is, why did God bother at all? Why create a world that He knew was going to go wrong eventually?

 

3. If God Is Good, Why Is There So Much Evil And Suffering?  

The question about evil and suffering has no easy answer because it is not about logical possibilities or impossibilities. Rather, it is an issue of the heart—we want to understand why people go through various difficulties. In fact, to hear the cries of help and feel burdened is a good thing, because it reveals a side of our humanity.

 

 

BONUS: Why Do Some People Believe All Religions Lead To the Same God?  

The idea that truth is exclusive is deeply upsetting to many. We cherish the liberty to decide for ourselves what is true and what is not; at the same time, we demand that others be truthful to us. We tend to place more value on how we feel, or whether something works for us, than on whether it is actually true. What then are some of the reasons that have led many to conclude that all religions lead to the same God?

Why Do Some People Believe All Religions Lead to the Same God?

Written By Jose Philip, Singapore

Jose is currently serving as an Evangelist and Apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Asia-Pacific). He also lectures on Apologetics, Christian Ethics, and Gospel & Culture at Singapore Bible College, Baptist Theological Seminary and Bible College Malaysia.

The idea that truth is exclusive does not sit well with many people today, does it?

In fact, it is deeply upsetting to some. We cherish the liberty to decide for ourselves what is true and what is not; at the same time, we demand that others be truthful to us. Now that presents us with a conundrum. How could we expect anyone to be truthful when, as my 12-year-old—who has quite the imagination—recently declared, “making things up” is so much more interesting!

Making things up or assuming them to be true is not what only children do. We tend to place more value on how we feel, or whether something works for us, than on whether it is actually true. Truth is relative, we are told, and this is an idea that those who hold strongly to their religious convictions will struggle with.

As an itinerant preacher, teacher, and Christian apologist, I am frequently asked to speak on a variety of topics to a wide variety of audiences. Once, I was asked to explore the question, “Do all paths lead to the same God?” As part of my preparation, I decided to do a quick survey. I wanted to know two things: Did people actually believe that all religions were the same? And, why?

So, every time I was sitting in a public area like a coffee shop or a library, I typed the words, “Why would anyone believe that all religions lead to the same God?”, in a font big enough for the person next to me to see.

It was a fascinating experiment, and I had some very interesting conversations. It showed that, contrary to what many might think, talking about religion is not a conversation stopper. Often, it did not take long before someone would see my words and ask, “Why not?”

It also confirmed my suspicion that many people, whether religious or not, believe that all religions are the same—even when they weren’t familiar with the claims or teaching of those religions. What also struck me was that most of the people I discussed the question with believed that they were entitled to their opinions. It showed me that for many, the right to be heard was more important than discovering the truth.

In a way, it wasn’t a surprise. Deciding for ourselves what is the truth is the logical next step following the belief that truth is relative. As a result, we find it rude—even arrogant—for someone to make exclusive claims about the truth. Now, if we pause long enough to think about this issue and ask, “Is this something new, or is this how humans have always thought?”, we might discover something very interesting.

 

Why Do We Believe What We Believe?

Having encountered several objections to exclusive truth claims about religion, I have found that they can be broadly grouped into three positions or “postures”: that of misplaced confidence, masked arrogance, and mistaken trust. The first two are effectively two sides of the same coin, so I will discuss them briefly before going on to focus on the third.

The three “postures” have to do with taking sides. When we maintain that truth is not exclusive, we are trying not to take one particular side against any other. However, we have different reasons for doing so.

 

1. Misplaced confidence

Many of the people who conclude that all religions lead to the same God appear to do so because they do not have exhaustive knowledge of every religion to conclude otherwise. It seems that those who adopt this posture tend to hold to the view that the great religions must surely be the same, for they all teach us to be good, to love, to serve others, to take care of the weak and vulnerable, not to harm, and to speak the truth. Therefore, they reason, none of these religions can be wrong, and all must surely be right.

This view, however, largely ignores the tenets and principles that are foundational to these religions. This is a posture of misplaced confidence.

 

2. Masked arrogance

Then there are those who get upset with anyone who claims exclusivity or who appeals to absolutes. They believe that it is wrong to claim that only one way is right. They feel that to claim that any one religion is right and the others are wrong is egocentric. Since we are mortal, they reason, who are we to say who is right and who is wrong?

However, when they profess that “all paths lead to the same ultimate truth”, are they not claiming to know more than all the founders of these diverse religions put together? Each of these founders, whether it is Buddha, Mohammed, or Jesus, has claimed one exclusive path to God. If we then say that all of their religions lead to the same God, are we not claiming that we know more than all these founders put together? Is that not a posture of masked arrogance?

 

3. Mistaken trust

Underlying the postures of misplaced confidence and masked arrogance is the posture of mistaken trust. Once, when I questioned a conversation partner’s belief that all religions are equally true, he became visibly distraught. “How could you, an Indian, even raise such a question?” he protested. “I am sure you are familiar with what Mahatma Gandhi said.”

(Gandhi, who led India to independence and is widely seen as the Father of India, made it plain that he believed that all religions were essentially the same.)

The man’s response appeared to be typical of how the vast majority of people are informed about the truth—through the voice of the popular. I could not help but wonder if it was because I am an Indian, that this obviously well-read gentleman appealed to the founding father of India to challenge my religious conclusions. Not wanting to second-guess him, I asked him if my nationality had prompted him to appeal to Gandhi’s name, to which he replied with a smile, “Yes”!

We are quick to denounce the “might is right” dictum because we know that sheer power is not a test for the truth. Why, then, do we not conclude the same when it comes to the “popular”? Why do we think that popularity makes something right? I am not suggesting that being a popular voice in and of itself is bad, or that Gandhi was being facetious. My question is simply this: “Does exemplary standing in one thing automatically grant someone infallibility in all things?”

Many of the people who believe that all religions lead to the same God are kind, intelligent, and sincere. But does that make it true? Sincerity, like popularity, is not a test for the truth; I can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.

It is true that Gandhi stood head and shoulders above the rest of his countrymen, and as an Indian, I owe my national freedom to his courage and selfless service. But does that mean that his belief in the equality of all religions is right?

It is no secret that the teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon on the Mount, had a profound impact on Gandhi. Yet he could not accept Christianity on its own terms. He picked and chose aspects of Christianity that appealed to him, and reinterpreted them from his perspective as a Hindu. He did the same with the teachings of Gautama Buddha, whom he saw as a great reformer of Hinduism. In Gandhi’s opinion, Buddha’s immense sacrifice and immaculate purity in life had left an indelible impression on Hinduism.

In essence, Gandhi’s approach was to consider the truth claims of different religions from the vantage point of the follower, and not its founders. In believing him, however, might we be taking a posture of misplaced trust?

 

Founder or Follower—Whose Decision Is It Anyway? 

Our motivations to believe all religions are the same may be noble—peace and harmony, for example. This, however, does not license followers to amalgamate world religions into an amorphous mix. It is not up to us to promise indiscriminately for all what is exclusively offered by one religion. In as much as you cannot attain ‘Nirvana’ by upholding the authority of the Vedas or adhering to the caste system, you cannot have ‘Eternal Life’ without choosing to follow Jesus alone.

The truth claims of the different religions are exclusive, and we will do well to appreciate its distinctiveness. It is up to us to choose whether we will allow these differences to divide us or to live in peace no matter how deep the disagreements. It is not, however, up to us to redefine what different religions claim as ‘exclusive’ and offer as the ‘same thing’.

If all religions are fundamentally different and essentially exclusive, then it stands to reason that they all cannot be equally true. I believe acknowledging this will bring us to the door of enquiry. And, despite my Christian convictions, I find investigating Jesus’ truth claims to be a good place to begin. He not only claimed divinity, He also offered a tangible way to validate whether His claims are true—through His death and resurrection. As the apostle Paul wrote:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

 

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