Do we have it in us to solve our problems?

Natural disasters just keep on coming, floods, droughts, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, plus all the misery that accompanies them. But never does human goodness stop happening either. Out goes a cry for aid and look at the response – money jars in stores and coffee shops, telethons on TV, and school kids collecting small change. Along with all these awful disasters we also see humanity at its shining best.

It never ceases to inspire, but there’s a cold reality that sets in too, when tons of aid and money are poured into a devastated area and years later there’s little sign of improvement. Living conditions may have improved somewhat but the underlying problems that existed before the disaster struck haven’t improved at all. The old problems have returned, of the vast gap between rich and poor, corruption by officials at all levels, criminals exploiting the poor, initiative stripped by ridiculous regulations, and neighbours ripping each other off. We try our best to help people but they cannot stop themselves, it seems, from reverting back to their old habits and cultural oddities.

Human goodness has its limitations, therefore, and there’s nothing like a natural disaster to make that obvious. No matter how much compassion we show or how much practical help we offer, it is beyond us to make this earth permanently better. Vast areas of this planet are still in miserable condition, despite years of foreign aid and fund-raising. Clearly, then, we need more than the best that we have to offer, because corruption and misery continue unabated, despite our noble motives.

I’m glad, therefore, Christianity does not promote human goodness or human ability as the solution to our global problems, nor does it offer the promise of a better world if we all band together. It doesn’t put that kind of pressure on people – which is a huge relief to people like me who don’t have much to offer – but hopefully it’s a great relief to everyone else too, that the responsibility of coming through with solutions in our troubled world isn’t ours. That responsibility was given to Jesus (Colossians 1:15-20), not to us.

And how he goes about it is what I’m discovering Christianity is. It’s not about us and our goodness, it’s about Jesus and his goodness. And disasters face us with that, because the best we can do in our human goodness is alleviate some suffering for some people temporarily, but nothing we’ve done yet has shown any sign of improving this world permanently for everyone.

Do we have it in us to solve our problems? No, because God didn’t give that ability to us, he gave it to his Son.


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