written in response to the murder of Cecelia Zhang


(still under construction)


Most of Toronto is in shock this morning with the sudden revelation that the body of Cecilia Zhang has been discovered. Many have been praying for her safe return to her parents. Many have pleaded with God to act on behalf of the Zhang family. Yet it appears as though God has forsaken us and now many are asking "Why?" of God. Many others may be asking "If God is real why does evil exist?" Some years ago I delivered a message (entitled When Good Things Happen) that discussed this question in some detail. In this message I argued that evil is a real presence in this world because of the rebellion of our first parents against God and our ongoing rebellion subsequent to that event. I still believe this and everything else that I said in that message. God created a perfect world. Adam and Eve believed Satan's lie rather than the truth of God and rebelled against Him. Since that time creation in general and humanity in particular have suffered the consequence of that rebellion.


God has and does intervene in human affairs. We call these interventions miracles. That He does not always do so neither shows that He does not care for us nor that miracles never occur. I believe that what happens in this world often causes God to weep. It does not follow, however, that God is powerless against evil. This would imply some form of dualism where God (who is good) struggles against Satan (who is evil) and each one wins or loses their various battles depending upon their various strengths and weaknesses. We do not live in a dualistic universe where a power for Good and a power for Evil struggle for supremacy. (Such a universe is logically impossible for the simple reason that if a definition can exist for Good as opposed to Evil, making one more desirable than the other, then either one power is able to define its own goals and is superior to the other or there is a still higher power which has made the definition which the two lesser powers are bound to follow. In either case the duality is a fabrication: In the first case one power of the supposed duality is stronger than the other. In the second case both powers of the supposed duality are subject to a greater power.) God is indeed supreme over creation. Evil has, however, been given a somewhat free hand in this creation (maybe so that we will know that it is legitimately condemned when God condemns it and its followers at the final judgment) and we all suffer the consequence. Cecilia (and countless others) did not die because God is powerless or uncaring but because an evil is present in this world that seeks to destroy all that it can so that by destroying life it may destroy faith in God as well. What God's plan is for the innocent lives that suffer because of this I do not know. I do know, however, that when we finally seen the outcome of God's plan at the final judgment we will not be able to fault Him for what He has done, for what He has done He will have done perfectly.


In all honesty, if the news had been different I would have claimed a great victory for God and celebrated His answer to my prayers for the safety of Cecilia. You may legitimately wonder if I am equally ready to say that God has failed me now that it appears that those prayers have not been answered. The short answer is "No." I am not ready to say that God has failed me because I believe that He has not failed me. It is true that my prayers for Cecilia's safety were not answered as I had hoped. It is also true that my prayers for other people have often not been answered as I had hoped. Does this mean that God does not exist, or that if He does He does not care? No! It means that God is not a genie but a caring parent. I am a parent and I must also occasionally say "No" to my children when to say "Yes" would not be in their best interest or when it would not be consistent with my character or when it may work against a plan which I have already put in place. I am a person and I must occasionally say "No" to those who come to me for help for the same reasons. It is simply not possible, nor is it best that we fulfill all the requests that are placed upon us. I firmly believe that God is real (the alternative is madness) and with equal firmness I believe that He cares (otherwise there can be no reason to believe that Jesus came to save us). I also believe that He often says "No" when it would not be for our best interest or when to say "Yes" would be inconsistent with His character or would work against the plan which He has put in place since before the creation of the world. No matter how much I pray to avoid it I know that there will come a day when I will die. My death on that day will not occur because my prayers have been ineffective or because God does not care for me. My death will be because mankind has sinned and death is the consequence of sin. Each of us will come to that day regardless of our struggles to avoid it. Because of God's care for us we can at that time be praising God by saying "God, thank you for letting me be saved!" rather than complaining "God, why did you let me die?"


Evil is a very real presence in the world. It is so because we human beings have allowed it to be. God is not helpless against evil but has a plan by which we, as individuals, may be saved from the consequence of our personal sin. God has worked (and is working) through Jesus Christ to save people from their own evil natures. The whole entire purpose of Jesus Christ is to reconcile humanity to God through His sacrifice on our behalf. He carried for me the wrath of God that I deserved. Because of Jesus' sacrifice I have been reconciled to God and the judgement of my personal sin has been removed from me, it has been placed on Jesus. I have not been removed from this fallen world where sin remains a potent force. My body will one day die, not because I am a sinner but because that is the result of the rebellion. God's promise to me is that my body will be resurrected at Jesus' return and I will enjoy His company forever in Heaven. The result of the rebellion will finally be done away with and I will enjoy perfect fellowship with my creator.


The uncomfortable part of all of this (the part that contradicts my human desire for revenge) is that God has made the identical offer to those who work evil in this world. Cecilia's murderer will be forgiven by God, just as I have been, if this person calls upon the name of Jesus and acknowledges their sin to Him. This sin of murder can be forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus just as my sins of pride, lust and envy (and a multitude of others) have been forgiven by that same sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus must apply equally to all who will accept it or it can apply to none.