Human Suffering Should God Be Punished?
by Rajkumar Richard
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God created this world where evil is an existential reality. Evil is not an illusion. When evil attacks us with all its force, we do feel the pain and, at times, we succumb.
Speak to anyone who lost their job for no fault of theirs or speak to those whose baby was raped and murdered. Try listening to people who lost their loved one because a shooter lost his mind and randomly shot everyone in his eyesight.
We may be able to find some reasonable answers for God allowing evil in this world. Those answers may be predicated on the love of God and the freewill of man:
1. The love of God necessitates mankind’s freewill i.e. man should not be compelled to love God, but the man should have the freedom to love God.
2. Man’s freewill allows for the possibility of evil. Man can freely reject God. When man freely rejects God, evil is a certain possibility.
3. Evil would not rule forever. The Bible teaches that God would defeat evil once and for all. And in the life to come, in heaven with God, there would be no evil. So those who believe in Christ would be spending the eternity in heaven without any pain or suffering.
So God may have very good reasons to allow evil. Hence the existence of God and evil need not be incompatible.
However, an agnostic/skeptic/honest seeker could wonder about God and evil through the following thought process:
A. God exists (or assume that God exists).
B. Evil is an existential reality.
C. When evil hurts God’s people; God should be punished, because HE fails to protect HIS people.
D. But God is not punished.
E. Hence, there is no God or there is an evil God.
Why Should God Be Punished?
Justice demands punishment for evil and any type of wrongdoing. Since God is just, evil should be punished. Since justice demands that the perpetrators of evil should be punished in this world or in the world to come, God has assured that Satan and his cohorts (angels and evil mankind) would be punished unto eternity.
God is our ultimate source of love, care, comfort, and protection. We expect and desire that God protect us from evil. Hence we pray, “…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…” (Matthew 6:13, NIV).
But it is quite evident that God’s protection is lacking in many lives that trust in God fully. There is untold suffering in many Christian homes.
So there seems to be a degree of validity to the thought process that God should be punished!
Consider this problem from another vantage point.
Governments and governing authorities are to care for and protect their people. If they fail in their duty, they may not be reelected. This is their punishment.
Similarly, God is the supreme governing authority. So HE should protect HIS people. If HIS people suffer for illegitimate reasons, then God should assume responsibility. In other words, God should be punished.
Assume an instance where an old lady was robbed by a young man. Also, assume that a perfectly able police officer was in the vicinity and he watched this event unfold. But he did nothing to prevent the theft. At the very least, that police officer could be deemed inefficient. An inefficient police officer is to be punished.
The very duty of a police officer is to prevent crime from happening. If a police officer remains passive and allows crime to happen, then the police officer fails in his duty. Thus he is to be punished.
If you disagree with the above conclusion to posit that this police officer should not be punished, it is plausible that this police officer was tolerant of the crime. A logical corollary, then, is that anyone who is tolerant of evil is evil. Since justice demands that evil should be punished, the police officer who does not prevent a crime should be punished.
This analogy could be extended to God.
God has created a world where evil exists. And in many instances, evil triumphs over good. If evil triumphs over good, there is something wrong with the world that God has created (at least in the here-and-now).
God alone is present everywhere (omnipresent). Hence, HE is the only one who is present in every evil situation where good people suffer.
God is the only all-powerful (omnipotent) being. Hence, HE alone can prevent any and every evil that occurs in this world.
Since God is the only all-powerful and the only omnipresent being, HE is perfectly capable of preventing every evil that occurs in the world. If God fails to prevent evil, then HE may be either evil or inefficient. Hence, God should be punished!
Has God Been Punished?
The Bible teaches us that God, in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ, suffered punishment for the sins of the whole world, “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (Romans 3: 25-26, NLT).
But some could argue that this punishment is not sufficient, considering the fact that, not one, but millions and billions of people are being slaughtered by evil. So a onetime punishment that God took upon HIMSELF, even if it were gory, is insufficient.
Would Our Afterlife Reward Suffice?
The Bible teaches that although evil remains triumphant in this world (in many instances), there is an afterlife without evil and that afterlife is the reward for those who suffer evil now.
But the pain experienced by those suffering should be healed in this world. A prospect of healing and restoration in the afterlife remains an intangible prospect in this life, whereas the pain we suffer is tangible in this life.
Consider two people who are suffering. There is always a prospect that, in this life, one is healed and the other is not. This is what we observe now.
The one who has been healed will enjoy peace and joy in this life, whereas the one who suffers without healing, does not experience peace and joy in this life. But the reward these people would receive in their afterlife could be similar. In fact, they would enjoy a similar quality of peace and joy in the afterlife, whereas in their life on earth, one enjoyed more peace and joy than the other. So the afterlife reward does not seem to offer justice in this instance.
Why Should God NOT Be Punished?
Punishment should only be invoked upon injustice. If God has done nothing wrong, then HE need not be punished.
Positing any arguments to assert that God cannot be punished without any legitimate reasons would be to ascribe evil upon God – as if God is an untouchable evil dictator. Justifiable reasons should be provided to establish that God has done no wrong.
God cannot do any wrong. God is the ‘greatest conceivable being’ or the ‘maximally great being.’ Hence, HE can only be perfect and good.
Imperfection cannot be a part of God. Evil is an imperfection, hence evil, too, cannot be God’s character.
Therefore, if God, in HIS perfect knowledge, has allowed HIS people to suffer for a particular period of time in this world without receiving justice in this world, then HE would have good reasons to do so.
Should the good and perfect God necessarily broadcast the good reasons for the suffering of HIS people? No, a good and a perfect God is not required to publicize the reasons for the suffering of HIS people. Since God is perfect and good, HIS reasons would also be perfect and good. People should have faith in God.
Thankfully, the Bible is not silent about this theme. The Bible does address this situation.
The Bible affirms that God’s people (not everyone, but some) will continually suffer in this world, especially when they are striving to live for God. In fact, Paul spoke about his suffering with an emphasis that God’s servants will indeed suffer for the sake of God, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6: 4-10, NIV, Emphasis Mine).
The very fact that the Bible addresses this theme is an affirmation to God’s goodness and perfection. So it is evident that God allows evil to attack HIS people. It is also obvious in the Bible that God heals or delivers some and not the others (for reasons that are only known to HIM or better known to HIM).
Christians should not be surprised if and when they suffer, instead, they should trust God while they suffer, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner. If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name! It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message! If good people barely make it, What’s in store for the bad? So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.” (1 Peter 4: 12-19, MSG).
God pours HIS abundant grace upon those who are suffering. God is with HIS people during their suffering. Those who are suffering can always seek and gain help from God.
God sustains HIS people during their times of trials and tribulation. God would fail if HE neither delivers nor sustains those who are suffering. Those who suffer need a great help. The Bible is replete with instances of God helping those who are in pain.
Apostle Paul’s life is a classic case in point, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, NASB).
In fact, as these verses teach us, those who earnestly seek God during their suffering would be filled with God’s power to endure their suffering.
God has done nothing wrong to warrant any punishment. The Bible is also unequivocally clear that God’s people would be called to suffer. But God does not abandon us while we suffer. Instead, HE offers us HIS abundant grace and power to endure suffering.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5: 10-11, NIV).
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