How many times in your life have you asked this question: Why me?
It’s a poignant and pathetic question, one that I’ve both whispered and screamed to God in some pretty dark moments.
And yet, it’s only a smaller, more personalized version of the question that atheists and anti-theists often point to as the “ultimate” proof that God doesn’t exist: Why do bad things happen to good people?
It’s a fair question. Bad things should not happen to good people. The problem, however, is in the definition in of “good.”
The Bible makes it clear that no one is “good” except for God.
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
I could give you more, but you’d drown in all the quotes I’d include. The point is solid: we have all done what is wrong in God’s eyes, missed the mark of holiness. We are not good. No one is good.
So the question to God ought to be: Why do Go(o)d things happen to bad people?
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God, how could you save me? Seriously? I’m so undeserving, so rotten in my very nature. How could you save me when I was so completely bad, truly evil and unlovable?
Why do good things happen to bad people, like me?
Greg Simmons says
I heard Greg Laurie put it this way (paraphrased): I don’t know. But I do know that we live in a broken world that is far from what God intended. Everything is tainted. Even Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 5:45 “In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” Sun and rain fall on both the just and unjust. Just because we belong to God doesn’t mean we get to escape the consequences of a broken world (consider my man Job).
Great point, Greg! Thanks for the quote.
Silence Dogood says
So would you then be arguing that there is no such thing as good people and we are all just as bad as the next. People throughout history have felt the need to be ranked, say that they are “better” or “more holy” than the next person. It is how people have justified enslaving others, killing others, belittling other, and all other sorts of harassment throughout human history. If there is no good how would you rank the innate, what I will call “love” but not agape love, more like phileo love. The love or bond of brotherhood and the want for others well being. I would argue that people are not saying they are like God when they are saying they are “good people” they are saying that they have a large amount of phileo love for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
I would also argue that bad things SHOULD, I repeat SHOULD, happen to people with lots of phileo love. If people went through life with nothing bad ever happening to them everyone would be able to experience exorbitant amounts of phileo love. It would be much in the same way that Peter was tested when he was asked if he knew Jesus and he denied him three times. People with large amounts of phileo love have these things because they strive for them, not because they are handed out. Would I be a “good” person if I never had to overcome some obstacles in my life? Probably not, much in the same was as I would not be a soldier if I have never been to war or I am not a parent if I have never had children, without those trials and tribulations that shape us into who we are we really don’t know how much phileo love we have, or if we will sacrifice our phelio love for our own personal interests when the “going gets though.”
I’m not sure how to take your comments because they don’t see to conform to a distinctly Christian worldview. I’m arguing that on our own no one is good. If that person is in Christ, they are good, but that “goodness” is given to them by Christ. They are not good on their own.
The presence of phileo love doesn’t enter into the discussion. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus makes the point that even sinners love those whom they ought to love. The real test of goodness/godliness is loving those who hate you. Romans 5 echoes this.
As far as how bad things should happen, that’s sort of my point, though I contend that they they should happen because we aren’t good, not because we are. That said, bad things will still happen to people who are “good in Christ” because this world is still broken and, honestly, because we who are good now were once bad, like everyone else, and polluted this universe with our own sin and rebellion. Jesus has cleansed us, but He has not yet cleansed creation.
Silence Dogood says
I am putting forth that bad things happening to us is us being put through trials. We have to show that we truly want to live Christian lives. We without being tested in our faith we cannot truly say that we have lived the life of Christ.
Phileos love is more than just loving the people we should love, it is completely opening up and welcoming everyone, it means befriending the leper, caring for the sick, ect. the things that we were tasked with by Jesus’ example on earth. It means that we don’t just love “those whom they ought to” Phileos love encompasses the courage that has been demonstrated by people such as Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and Mandela, these people genuinely cared about society, even people they didn’t know.
I am not saying that it isn’t given to people by Jesus Christ, I am saying that, although it is given to everyone, you still have to live it out in your everyday life or you aren’t truly a “good” person in the eyes of Jesus.
While I believe that we will face trials, I don’t believe that God is testing our love. He knows the quality and depth of our love. Did God need Abraham to offer Isaac to know the depths of his devotion? No, but God made him go through it so that he could know it himself.
Phileo, in the Greek, simply means “brotherly love.” What you’re talking about is “agape,” “unconditional love,” and I’m not saying that only Christians can be loving, but I am saying that goodness only comes from God and, furthermore, that we do not have to do anything to be seen as good in Jesus’ eyes. That would be moralism, earning our right-standing with God, and there’s nothing Christian about that.
Silence Dogood says
If there is nothing Christian about “moralism” why would God have Moses write the Ten Commandments in stone? Are those not the rules by which “moralism” is judged? Did Jesus not want us to gain a set of morals from his teachings and preachings? The entire idea of “morals,” for most Christians, are ideas centered around whatever church they might be a part of, Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, or any other Christian religion. So to say “moralism” is not Christian at all would be a falsity.
No, you’re misunderstanding. “Moralism” is a philosophical/religious approach to life that emphasizes adherence to rules and proper external behavior over an inward change. “Moralists,” in this sense, are those who believe that they can make themselves right with God through proper conduct. The 10 Commandments are not morals, but laws of God to illustrate what holiness looks like, and the New Testament is clear that the intent behind them was demonstrate humanity’s inability to be holy without the help of God. Jesus Himself extended the external implications of the commandments by making them internal, further highlighting our need for a savior to change us from the inside. Moralism is not Christianity because the message of Christianity is that God has done what we cannot do: lived the holy life that completes the law.
Silence Dogood says
While I agree that the message of Christianity is that God has done what we cannot do, it is too complex of an idea to say that, when we live out the 10 Commandments we are growing closer to God. We are becoming people who act more like God and less like sinners and, I would argue, that is the point of Christianity, not only that God has done what we cannot, but also that we, the people of the Christian church, are compelled to act according to the “rules,” which does not differ from “morals” because they, as you said, are a set of rules by which we live our lives. And, as Christians, the point isn’t to shove it in our faces that we are terrible people who can never live up to God because, we all know that, the point is for us to follow the teachings of Jesus, His disciples, and the Prophets before him so that we can grow closer to God and Jesus Christ in our lives.
So I will leave you with this, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” Matthew 19:17, that is Jesus himself telling us that the “rules,” or “morals,” we should live our lives by to be in his favor are the 10 Commandments.
But the Bible’s clear that our obedience doesn’t us like God. He changes us, sanctifies us from the inside out, and our behavior changes correspondingly, not causally. Beyond that, Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19 are in direct contradiction to moralism/rules-based religion. He says this to the rich young ruler who has ostensibly followed the law of God but lacks one thing: heart-change. His exterior rule-following system hasn’t done anything to change him from within. (Sorry I’m just now replying. It’s been a crazy two weeks.)
Silence Dogood says
In my church service just a few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon about “good” and how it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is something that has been weighing on me for awhile now because, being a gift of the Holy Spirit, it is something that us as sinful people can achieve but it is also something that we have to be constantly working toward. It is something that we, followers of Christ, can get through the gifts of the holy spirit such as wisdom and knowledge. (I was just wondering your take on this stance because you are, without a doubt, a smarter man than I. I would also like to say thank you for taking the time to respond to me whenever you get the chance.)
There’s a delicate and nearly unknowable balance between what God does for us and what our response/responsibility is. I like Philippians 2:12-13:
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
Work our your salvation, even though it’s God within you making it happen. To me, the simplified version is: get out of God’s way, submit your will to His, and let Him do in you what only He can do.
I don’t know how much smarter I am. I’ve just read a million books and been around for a long time, but thank you just the same!