20 July 2014

Good God, Why Is There Evil?

From the foundation of the world it has been hidden, that is, the goodness of the Cross of Christ. It is a divine Mystery, which, to the world, appears to be the height of evil.  And to be sure, the evil one intends it to be so, as he plants the seeds of greed and jealousy, of blasphemy and cowardice against the Son of Man.  Yet, it is the Father who hands over His beloved Son for the Life of the world, and the same dear Son who lays down His Life willingly, in the hope of the Resurrection.

If God is all good and all powerful, and He is, then why is there evil in this world that He created?  That is the burning question, and it is answered in the Lord’s explanation of this Parable.  It isn’t what you think, nor as it appears on the surface.  For all your eating of forbidden fruit, you do not know the difference between good and evil.  You are not God, nor are you like Him, though you presume to judge your neighbor and to evaluate your place in the world as if you were the Lord.

As soon as you perceive what you determine to be evil in your neighbor and your circumstances, your immediate reaction is to rip it out and be done with it.  That seems logical and good, right?  The longer it remains, the more it will grow, and the more damage it will do.  Especially in the case of clear and obvious sin, which is contrary to the Word of God.  Surely that must be dealt with, and, rest assured, it will be.  There is a Day of Judgment, make no mistake about it.  Even now, there is a need for discipline, for the self-discipline of your flesh, for the discipline that God has entrusted to parents and other governing authorities, and for the exercise of church discipline.

But along with that divine discipline and judgment, there is also this seemingly contrary Word of the Lord, which simply says “No” to your itch and urge to weed the wheat field.  Leave the weeds alone to grow together with the wheat, He says, even as He continues to provide His sunshine and His rain on both the evil and the good, for both the wicked and the righteous in this life on earth.  His tender care extends to the entire field, and this is what is frankly hard for you to understand.

An enemy has sown these weeds among the wheat.  The Lord knows that it is so, and yet, He does nothing about it.  He seems passive, indecisive, and weak in the face of this wickedness.  And you cannot comprehend why He does not remove the weeds that are strangling you and choking the life out of you in this world.  You do not consider the extent to which your own heart and mind, your own body, soul, and spirit have become so thoroughly infested with the devil’s weeds, they could not be removed without killing you in the process.  Damned if you.  Damned if you don’t.

But now, do not suppose that the Lord your God has been caught off guard by His enemy, nor that He is left powerless to do anything about it.  It is, in fact, His almighty power that is made perfect in this apparent weakness.  He exercises long-suffering patience in mercy, compassion, and love.  He waits, not for some inevitable demise, but to accomplish the redemption of His field, to justify the good seed that He has sown, and to sanctify the wheat that He brings forth unto the harvest.

Not only is He Good — His Word good, His Seed good, His whole creation very good — but He is also the Almighty, the Maker and Preserver of all things.  Nothing happens outside of His power.  He remains forever in control of all that He has made, and He governs the whole world and the entire cosmos for the benefit of His Church, for the good of His children.

The devil is not another god, but is himself a creature of the one true God, dependent on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for his very existence and for whatever he is merely permitted to accomplish.  With ego and envy he has set his will against the Lord who made him, but his evil will not prevail.  Despite the devil’s wicked intentions, the Lord accomplishes His own good purposes.  The true and only God, the Holy Trinity, is never backed into a corner nor left scrambling for a “Plan B.”

It is not the Lord but His people whose sleeping affords the devil opportunity to sow his weeds.  So it is in your life, as well, that when you are asleep at the wheel, negligent in your duties, and deaf to the Word and promises of God, that is when the serpent slithers in with his temptations.  The evil one sows seeds of doubt and fear, of lust and greed, of pride and enmity, which take root in your ears, and in your heart and mind, and then they grow and bear the wicked fruits of sin and death among the amber waves of grain: both within and all around the sons of the kingdom.

For all of that, it is the Lord who subjects His creation to the consequences and corruption of man’s sin; not for destruction or damnation, but, again, in the hope and for the purpose of redemption.

He does not eradicate the weeds, because to do so would be to destroy His precious wheat, as well.  Nor does He permit His servants to go on a weeding rampage.  He tempers their emotional outburst and reins in their impetuous flesh; lest they trample the whole field underfoot and set themselves against each other in the process, since they too are part and parcel of this weed-infested world.

Instead, He does allow the weeds and wheat to grow together, as Jesus here makes clear for you, until the harvest of that great and final day.  But to what end or purpose?  Where is the hope to be found?  How will the wheat be saved, and how will the weeds be separated and removed from it?

It is by the Way of the Cross, that hidden Mystery of God’s great goodness; by the repentance and resurrection of the Son of Man for the fulfilment of all righteousness on behalf of sinners; by His own Baptism unto death, and by the labor, delivery, and new birth of Holy Baptism in His Name.

The Seed of the Woman plants Himself in the cursed and corrupted soil, the dust of the earth — from which man is taken, and to which he returns — and this New Man subjects Himself to the futility of the old man’s sin and death.  He sets Himself against the enemy of God and Man, and patiently suffers the devil’s abuse.  He gathers up the weeds and binds them to Himself, to His own flesh and blood, body and soul, in order to burn them up in the fire of His Holy Cross and Passion.  He bears it all, every last thorn and thistle, weed and tare, in order to bury it forever in His tomb.

Then, in His Resurrection from the dead, the Father gathers the good Wheat of His Son’s glorified Body into the barn.  His flesh and blood, crucified and risen, are the First Fruits of a great harvest.

So it is that you are now rescued and redeemed and gathered up into the Body of this same Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, by the forgiveness of all your sins.  And you are taught the way of God, the way of faith and life and righteousness, by the same Spirit through the same Gospel of Christ, which is the Gospel of His Cross and Resurrection.

The weeds with which you now contend, within yourself and in the world and in others against you, although they are intended by the enemy to choke the life of God right out of you, are taken up by the Lord in His own Body on the Cross to become a catechesis of repentance and faith, by which you are taught to pray with deep groans of eager longing for the mercies of Christ Jesus.

In thus learning to pray, you learn to fear, love, and trust in God, the Lord, the Maker of all things, who not only has but is the First and Last Word.

In this fear of the Lord, you patiently bear with the weeds that you perceive or suspect in others, and, instead of enmity, you learn to care for your neighbor in long-suffering love and forgiveness.

Meanwhile, the Cross is putting to death the stumbling blocks and lawlessness in you, that is, in your sinful flesh.  Day after day, the Word and Spirit of the Lord return you to the significance of your Holy Baptism, so that you die to yourself and rise to live unto righteousness in Christ.  For you live in the hope and confidence of His Resurrection from the dead, though you can’t see it.

The truth is, that, for now, you are often still beguiled by the devil’s temptations, and you suppose that you already have a judicious knowledge of what is good and what is evil, as though you were God Himself, and as though you were in a position to judge and determine even life and death.

Yet, what the devil, the fallen world, and your mortal flesh call “good” is actually a weed, and what they call “evil” is the good and glorious Cross of the good Lord, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, do not listen to their lies, but learn to know what is good and right and true, and to flee what is evil, in the only way that you can, that is, by giving attention to the Word and Spirit of Christ the Crucified.

Take heart that His Spirit helps you in your weakness, even by way of the very Cross that presses so hard and heavy upon you, which elicits such groans from the depths of your heart and mind, from your body and soul.  Your groans of anguish are heard and answered in the Body of Christ.

Not only that, but, with this preaching of the Gospel, the Spirit plants the Good Seed of the Son in you, in your body and your soul.  He not only implants the Seed of the Word in your ear, and into your heart and mind, unto repentance and faith; He also feeds you with the very Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, that He might bear the fruits of His righteousness in you, and you shine forth in Him in the Kingdom of His God and Father.  It is for this that you are baptized.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.