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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.

Sri Lanka Easter Bombings: How Should We Respond?

Screenshot taken from Guardian News Video

 

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.

 

I was at my packed church on Easter Sunday (Apr 21) in the central hills of Sri Lanka when a friend told me that bombs were going off at church services around the country. Upon returning home, I watched the news in disbelief as it reported scores of people killed in the bombs that went off in three hotels and three churches around the country.

To date, more than 250 people have lost their lives in the explosions and close to 500 have been injured. These figures include the sister of a ministry leader I know who suffered serious head injuries and is currently fighting for her life. A former member of the same ministry died in the bombings. Another youth who attends my organization’s sports ministry lost a leg.

As I reflected on the tragedy that hit the church and our nation as a whole, these two thoughts struck me about how we as believers should respond:

 

1. Embrace the spiritual oneness of the body of Christ

As many who died were church-goers, I had to pause and reflect on the spiritual oneness I shared with the suffering. One of the great marks of being a Christian is that we are part of a family in whom the resurrected Christ dwells (Ephesians 3:17). This may give the impression that we are all living in isolated places as Christ dwells in us. But the Bible says that we are together in Christ too!

A great miracle that took place on the cross apart from our salvation was that God was bringing together a body of people who as a result of the cross will be made irreversibly “one”. Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:21b “. . . That they may also be in us”. Paul, in Romans 12:5 says “we are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (ESV). The NIV renders it as “belonging to one another”. Isn’t that the language of married couples? We were never saved to live in isolation but saved into a oneness that we together share in Christ. The New Testament shows that we are incorporated into Christ’s body. In a wonderfully spiritual way not visible to our eyes, the Bible says that we were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), buried with him (Colossians 2:12), baptized into Christ and his death (Romans 6:3), united with him in his resurrection (Romans 6:5). We are now together one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)!

As a result of this glorious truth, the Bible commands us to avoid identity markers as we see Christians from another race, color, nation, social standing, gender etc. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27–28). By the use of the words “neither” and “nor”, Paul, in his writing to the Galatians, says that the primary way we see another Christian is as someone who is clothed with Christ!

As someone from the Sinhalese race, this means that I would see a Christian who is Tamil, not as a “Tamil Christian” but someone who is “clothed with Christ”. While the Bible elsewhere does ask us to celebrate our various identities that make us unique, as we see here, we are to hold lightly to them because of the greater identity we have as those who are clothed with Christ.

All this goes to show the extent of the oneness we share with the body of Christ regardless of where we are in the world. It is because of this oneness that when one part of the body is suffering, we suffer together with it. This would mean that regardless of where we are in the world, as believers, we should pause from our busy schedules, get rid of all distractions (especially the digital ones) and cry out to God on behalf of our brothers and sisters who are suffering.

 

2. Reach out to those of other faiths

As the aftermath of the tragedy unfolded before our eyes, the question on everyone’s minds was who was behind it. It was confirmed 24 hours later that the bombers were those influenced by extremists Muslim ideologies.

Romans 12-13 makes it clear that justice will be meted out on the perpetrators. God is serious about punishing wrong and has given earthly rulers the authority to execute judgement (His wrath) on wrongdoers. As Christians, we must condemn evil, and even urge the authorities to act justly. We can also be certain that regardless of what happens in this life, He has also set a day to judge the world.

At the same time, because of the actions of some, the entire Muslim community in Sri Lanka has suffered severe shame and are overcome by deep sadness, fear, and anxiety as they move in public places. I know this is a reality for Muslims in western countries too.

The moment the identity of the perpetrators was revealed, I wrote to my high school Muslim friends assuring them of my love for them. Later on, I also visited the home of a Muslim youth living in Kandy (my city) who is very dear to me. I spent several hours with him, wanting him to be affirmed that my love for him had not changed.

We must do all we can to be close to the those of other faiths who are suffering. If we have not learned to look at them through the eyes of grace, then perhaps we have not fully appreciated all that God has done for us (Romans 5:10). May God open our eyes to see His great love for them and how much He desires for them to know Christ.

 

While we mourn over the lives lost after a horrific tragedy like this, we must keep our two-fold commitment to the body of Christ and to the rest of the world that desperately needs Christ. May we be filled with the Spirit to carry our cross for the glory of God in every season.