Pain, suffering and evil

So how come pain, suffering and evil still exist, despite the fact that Christ in his death “condemned sin in sinful man” (Romans 8:3), and in his resurrected state he’s now at God’s “right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come“ (Ephesians 1:20-21)?

Surely our hope rests in clear evidence that those two scriptures are true “in the present age” – in life in this world right now, in other words – and we can see with our own eyes too that Jesus rules supreme, “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20). If peace is what Christ died to create, then shouldn’t we be seeing pain, suffering and evil becoming less and less?

Yes, if by “peace” it means an obvious decrease in pain, suffering and evil worldwide. And isn’t that the world’s great hope, that one day all pain, suffering and evil will be eradicated? But in Colossians 1:21-22, that’s not what peace means. Peace isn’t the opposite to pain, suffering and evil. Peace is defined as no longer being “alienated from God,” and “enemies in our minds because of our evil behaviour.” Peace is defined in context here as the eradication of our hostile attitude to God, because at the heart and core of all evil is thinking God is our enemy.

Remove that thought in our heads and, hey presto, we have peace. But that’s what Christ died for, to reconcile us to God (verse 22) so we don’t see him as our enemy anymore. But how can he be our enemy when it was God, in Jesus, who died to cancel out every evil thing we’ve ever done or thought of, and now “through his death presents us holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (verse 22)?

We brought pain, suffering and evil on ourselves by our hostility to God, but God shows through Jesus’ death that he feels no hostility to us. It’s so hard to keep that in mind, though, when evil things happen, because it looks like God doesn’t like us at all, and he makes us suffer to show his disapproval.

But we can keep it in mind, Paul says in verse 23, “IF we continue in our faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” The hope of the gospel is that Christ’s death will end everyone’s hostility to God, and it’s keeping that in mind that keeps us remarkably and miraculously at peace, despite everything happening to and around us.

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