The Dilemma of Love
There is the joke where God approaches Adam and Eve and says, “I have good news and bad news: the good news is that you have free will; the bad news is that you have free will.”
What [Rabbi] Kushner [in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People] lacks is a realistic depiction of this kind of Love from God which creates a tension: allowing humans to “not love” will cause suffering – even His own suffering, as when a parent is rejected by his child (consider the prodigal son parable [Luke 15:11-32]). Now if the parent does not care, then of course he would have no distress. However, consider this Father’s agony: not only will there be the coming separation from these beloved humans, but also ultimately, in order to restore these “outsiders,” He will helplessly watch His only Son give His life. In His Love for these creatures He will be unable to lift a finger to relieve Jesus’ anguish, but must instead turn His Face away. This is the most costly result, hitting the closest to home, where He will stand alongside grieving parents as He Himself would come to understand grief.
Imagine the pain of watching people’s terrible and cruel choices which will torment His personally handcrafted humanity – especially when He knows all this in far more detail than we! Before Christmas in 2012, twenty-six children and adults are killed in a mass murder in a Newtown, Connecticut school – just imagine what it must be like for Him, Who at creation sees what would happen in Newtown and in millions and millions of other events, wars and cruelties throughout history, knowing that this would be the result should He allow humans their free choice.
Does He hesitate? His beloved Son would die for creatures who would barely, if ever, stop to acknowledge Him, much less to honor Him, much less to even love Him in return. But He Loves and therefore must allow the choices which will cause His own heart to break. This will be the cost, not just for all Creation but also personally for Him. Unfortunately but realistically in this universe, suffering and Love will be linked.
How many times does a parent, through love, allow “evil” or even create “suffering” for the child? Although we want love to be sweetness and light and warm and fuzzy, there are times when it requires a certain grittiness and heaviness of heart. A parent may need to “bite the lip” as something is withheld, or in allowing a situation to come to its logical consequences, or may apply some other kind of discipline/punishment. Should a parent attempt to “fix” a problem for the child, it may actually be the greater evil in the long term, therefore are the times when the parent must “turn a deaf ear” either to the person with responsibility or to the victim. Just as when the fledgling is pushed out of the nest, there can be a lot more to “good and loving, just and fair” than simply what may be nice and comfortable.
So Jehovah is no mere unimpassioned bystander, and He knows the extreme to which His suffering must go because of His Love: it would take Him to a Cross above Jerusalem, to rejection, abandonment and death. But what else could He do, if He Loves? However, that very Love and suffering will bring His heartfelt outcome where even when we were
… dead in trespasses, He made us alive with Christ – by grace you are being saved – and “jointly raised up” and “jointly seated” us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that He might show in the coming ages the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [Ephesians 2:4-7]
The result is the heart-felt goal of being “jointly seated” with Him:
The Word is faithful: if we "jointly died" with Him, then we shall "jointly live" with Him; if we persevere, then we shall "jointly reign" with Him… [II Timothy 2:11-12]
Joined to Christ, we will experience the fulfillment which His suffering and Love brings, which, as declared in the Bible’s very first chapter, is humanity’s high honor of being God’s Image to the universe forever...
The Buck Stops Here
Forming light and creating darkness, making peace [shalom] and creating affliction – I am Jehovah, Who does all these things. [Isaiah 45:7]
“The Buck Stops Here” is the phrase US President Harry S Truman made famous, which indicates that the president – here God – has to make the final decisions and bear the ultimate responsibility for what happens. This is visible in the book of Job and in this (following) account of the prophet Micaiah relating to King Ahab the scene in Heaven, where in both incidents it seems that the Lord deliberately baits the Devil, with the sad irony being that struggle as Satan will against God, anything he does is only by permission:
... [II Chronicles 18:20-22; also I Kings 22:21-23]
Satan is but a creature – God is neither weak nor ineffectual before this source of evil, but rather is fully and completely in charge. But as He demonstrates His final say in regard to all things, even tragedies, it still is difficult. Although such things do not happen “by His own hand,” that they happen at all is laid at the foot of His throne. Why has He allowed for Satan, much less evil, to remain? Evidently He wishes for evil to run its full course, not for His benefit but rather for the sake of the Creation(s)....
Given that Jehovah is Love, allowing evil cannot be a casual decision on His part. There is nothing more antithetical to Himself than that for which evil stands and that in which it results. Therefore whatever He is revealing about this darkness in the Creation(s) must be