Could God not have done this better? That is a question which may arise when thousands upon thousands of people lose their lives in one earthquake. We might blame the buildings not being up to code or the building codes not being up to snuff, but God created the world with plates that move along fault lines. That’s on God. Jesus said the wise man builds his house on a rock
but it seems that even the rocks cannot trusted. Could God not have done things differently? Could God not have designed a world where the rocks can be trusted?
Thousands have also lost their lives in the war in Ukraine. At least with war you can pin people losing their lives on leaders losing their minds. But a disaster because the ground is not solid? That’s on God. Could God not have built a natural disaster proof earth? And a cancer free world? A diabetes free world? A virus free world?…and on we could go.
People could have asked the same question when Jerusalem was destroyed just one generation after the resurrection of Jesus:
As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”….
“The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.Matthew 24:1-2, 15-21 (NLT)
When these events happened, you can imagine people saying “This is the very centre of our religion and religious practice. Could God not have done things differently…in a way that would avoid disaster?…in a way that would save the innocents?” It is interesting that Jesus pointed out how terrible it would be for pregnant women and nursing mothers. If there was to be judgement, could God not strike those at fault with lighting, and leave those who were innocent alone?
Jesus knew that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Yet he did not stop it. At his arrest Jesus said he could call thousands of angels to protect him. He could have done that to protect the innocent people of Jerusalem too. That was not a miracle the miracle worker was willing to grant. Why not?
Not too long after Jesus spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem, he stood before Pilate with the religious leaders calling for his destruction. Could God not have done that differently also? If God wanted to reveal himself to us did he have to do it by being all too human, in weakness, stirring controversy, and picking fights with the religious leaders?
Yes, Jesus did miracles, but could he not have done miracles that would have erased all doubt as to his identity, especially among the religious leaders who brought him to Pilate to be killed? Could Jesus not have given those religious leaders proof beyond all doubt? Today people still wonder why God won’t give them proof beyond all doubt.
Here is the bottom line. We’ve got questions. Hard questions.
There are answers.
There is a theological answer as to why Jerusalem was destroyed. There was a major shift from the Old Covenant to New. But still, could that not happen in a way that was not disastrous for pregnant woman and nursing mothers?
There are theological answers as to why Jesus was destroyed too. The most powerful, indescribable, indestructible force beyond and behind the universe, God, came to us in the weak, describable, destructible man on the cross, Jesus, and in doing so we got to see the powerful, indescribable, indestructible love of God. Our sin could not kill the love of God, our hatred could not stop it. But still, could that not have happened in a way that convinced everyone, then and now?
There are answers. But not always. Even when there are answers, there are still questions.
There is a church in the United States with a different kind of statement of faith. Our friends at Open Table Communities will be looking at their four statements as conversation starters over Lent. The first statement is “God is a mystery to be explored, not a doctrine to be espoused.”
That statement resonates with me, especially when there are big, deep, good questions. While there are answers, it is okay to not have all the answers. It is okay to have questions. I have faith, not because I have got God all figured out, but because I’m okay with mystery.
I have often used the example of faith being like a jigsaw puzzle. Some pieces come together quickly and are easy to figure out. Some pieces seem to fit, but not really, and later you end up changing your mind on them. Others, well who knows where they go. If we keep at it a beautiful picture forms. Some people start with the hardest parts and give up before they get the picture. Others begin with the easier parts and are happy to keep working at it despite not knowing how it all fits together, despite the mystery that remains.
Could God not have done things better? So that thousands would not perish as they slept in their beds one night? Perhaps, but this is the way things are. The ways things are is often marked by great beauty if you have the eyes to see it. That beauty is enough to know that God is, and that God is for us and not against us. Some questions, good questions, go unanswered. An earthquake will break our hearts, but it need not shake our faith.