One of the main arguments against God's existence is that of the problem of evil. "If God is so loving, why is there so much evil in the world?" Fair question. I've personally have asked this question myself, and not even in regards to relating to evil, but just of my own personal suffering. "How could a loving God allow me to go through this?" Believers ask these questions sometimes too, but there is a difference bewteen having "a moment", and a lifestyle built around these questions. Deep down, I knew the answer to my question. I knew God existed, and He still loved me. I can honestly not speak on behalf of atheists because I have never been one. Some believe that all are in denial and deep down know God exists, but I don't think it's that simple. I do, however, believe man will definitely be without excuse (Romans 1:20).
I think it's important, first, to define evil, since this is the crux where we are defining God's existence. So what is evil? I've asked this question to people in the past when witnessing, and the answers are always the same. "Bad things, like murder, rape, etc.". Great, I've just been given examples of evil, but what is evil? I then hint by asking "What is darkness?", "What is cold?", both of which are the absence of something, being light and heat respectively. Their eyes then flicker, the light turns on, and they can then proceed to answer my first question. Evil is the absene of good, and it is this very answer that eventually led C.S. Lewis to the faith, as "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line."
So we've defined evil, great, now what is God going to do about it? To answer this, we must first understand the character of God, and that of His longsuffering nature. We can look at the Old Testament, where the land of Canaan was doing unbelievably wicked things. Women were literally giving birth just for the purpose of child sacrifice, and God put up with this for 400 years! "He's coming soon!", we say. Heck, every generation since Christ has thought they were the last generation, and the worlds response?
They will say, 'Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation'. (2 Peter 3:4)
Evil is in all of us, not just those we think the worst of. We are, each of us, inherently wicked. As one of my favorite quotes, which states "you are worse than you think you are, and Jesus is greater than you think He is." But the reason Christ still delays is His longsuffering. The text goes on to say:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
God is literally giving me, you, and everyone, every possible second He can in His longsuffering nature to repent, and He owes us none of it. Every breath we breathe is a gift from God. We cannot understand God's love if we don't first understand our own wickedness and the gravity of our sin. We are desperately evil. I love Pastor Vodie Baucham's response to the question of evil, he says:
I believe a better question to ask would be, 'How could a Just God, who knows what I did and thought and said on yesterday, and not kill me in my sleep last night?'
Of course the answer to his rhetorical question is God's longsuffering and grace. We are sinners, and we have a loving God, but also a Just God, and that of an angry God who hates sin and will see to it that it is dealt with justly. I know I've been throwing in a lot of quotes in this blog, but I cannot omit a passage from Jonathan Edwards sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God":
The Bow of God's Wrath is bent, and the Arrow made ready on the String, and Justice bends the Arrow at your Heart, and strains the Bow, and it is nothing but the meer Pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any Promise or Obligation at all, that keeps the Arrow one Moment from being made drunk with your blood... There is the dreadful Pit of the glowing Flames of the Wrath of God; there is Hell's wide gaping Mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, not any Thing to take hold of: there is nothing between you and Hell but the Air; 'tis only the Power and meer Pleasure of God that holds you up.
God is giving each of us a chance at repentance, but His longsuffering for each of us is limited. For "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27) The question of evil is one that needs to be evaluated within ourselves first. It is a question that places man in the seat of supremacy by essentially saying "How dare God allow this to happen to us!" No! The real question should be that of which Pastor Vodie Baucham asked. We must understand our own evil. We must understand our own wickedness. We must understand the gravity of our sin. People really just don't understand quite what they're asking when they ask God to end evil. By asking God to end evil, you're asking God to end you.