Why Does God Allow War?
Dr. Jim Denison
Why does God allow war? I trust we understand that he does not cause it. Japanese bombers invading Pearl Harbor, or Hitler’s tanks invading Poland, or Saddam Hussein invading Kuwait or harboring weapons of mass destruction—these things cause war. It is a simple fact, regardless of our political views, that we would not be at war in Iraq today if Hussein had disarmed.
But why does God allow it? Our Creator has given us freedom of will, so we have the capacity to choose to love him and live by his word. And so he must allow us the capacity to choose to reject him and refuse his word. The consequences of such misused freedom are not God’s fault but ours.
But still, why does he allow such consequences? Here’s one reason: to use human crisis for spiritual purposes.
If a person escapes adolescence without faith in Christ, he typically does not turn to the Lord unless he needs him. Unless there’s a divorce, or illness, or job loss, or crisis. Unless there’s a war. During the Civil War, for instance, as many as 300,000 soldiers came to faith in Christ.
Already we’re hearing such stories from Iraq. Servicemen and women turning to faith in Jesus, sharing their faith in Jesus, standing for Jesus. In the contemporary service I showed the picture of Pfc. David Kurns, one of eight members of the 3rd Infantry Division who were baptized north of Kuwait City on March 12. They made a hole in the desert, filled it with bottled water, and used it to tell the world they trust in Jesus.
How can we redeem this crisis, this suffering, this tragedy for spiritual and eternal good? As we meet Mary Magdalene, the first to tell the world about Jesus’ resurrection, we must ask: how can we do for Jesus what Mary did for him?
So, we have today a message about personal ministry and evangelism. But we aren’t all pleased with the topic.We know the need is great: 100,000 living within three miles of our church who are not in any worship service this morning.
And we know people personally who need Jesus. Think of someone you know who is spiritually lost. Why have you not told that person about Jesus? I bet I know some of the reasons. I face them myself. So did Mary.
First: you’re unqualified. You don’t have the education, the training, the ability, the calling.
You wouldn’t see a heart attack victim in a hospital and think you could perform heart surgery unless you were qualified; you wouldn’t hear that a friend has cancer and administer radiation unless you were trained.
It’s the same with souls as bodies, isn’t it? Spiritual surgery is for spiritual surgeons. They might ask a question you can’t answer, or you might not do this properly. Best to leave evangelism and ministry to the professionals.
Well, meet one such “professional,” the first evangelist for the risen Christ. Here are her qualifications:
She’s a woman, of course. And women had no social status whatever. A female was the possession of her father until she became the possession of her husband. Making things worse, she was from Magdala, a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, so she’s a Galilean. A backwoods country bumpkin in the eyes of sophisticated society. She fails socially. But things get worse.
Mary sees the same miracle as John: the grave clothes intact and folded. But she doesn’t “see and believe.” She misses the point. She has no formal education or biblical background, and so she doesn’t put the scriptures together. She fails intellectually. But things get worse still.
Luke’s Gospel gives us the only reference to Mary from Magdala before Jesus’ crucifixion when it describes her as one “from whom seven demons had come out” (Luke 8:2). A demoniac when Jesus met her.
Imagine this: a person of inferior social rank and status, with no theological training or educational background, and a former demoniac at that—the first person given responsibility for Easter. No one could be less qualified.
Unless, that is, it’s Simon Peter, the leader of the apostles who slept through Jesus’ Garden temptations, denied him three times to servants, and fled from the cross. Or perhaps Saul of Tarsus, the enraged Pharisee who murdered Christians.
Or perhaps Augustine, the immoral adulterer; or Martin Luther, the confused and troubled monk; or John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, the English outlaws who started the church called Baptist; or William Carey, the shoe cobbler shouted down by the ministerial alliance to whom he appealed for missions support; or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German prisoner of war “silenced” by the Gestapo.
No one is less qualified than Mary, unless it’s me, a convert to Christ out of a bus ministry in Houston. Or you.
Sometimes we’re afraid to tell the world about the risen Christ, because we don’t feel qualified. And sometimes we’re just not motivated. We don’t want to pay the price.
We’re afraid of failing, or of being rejected. We’re afraid of offending the person with whom we share our faith.
Or we’re not convinced that this is really necessary. After all, our friends believe in God. They live moral lives. A loving Father wouldn’t send his children to hell—that’s just a tactic to scare people into the church. It doesn’t really matter what they believe, so long as they’re sincere. Actor Adrien Brody said it well at the Oscars: whether you believe in God or Allah, may he watch over you.
Or we’re not convinced that Christianity is really true. It’s true for us but it may not be for everyone. After all, there are lots of unanswered questions about this faith. What about contradictions in the Bible? What about science and faith issues? And what about evil and suffering—why would an all-good, all-powerful allow such evil as 9-11? Why would he allow my father’s heart disease, or your child’s cancer?