What Exactly Is Evil?

How many times have you heard that we should be good and not evil, or that God is good? Throughout history, people have had some very strange ideas about what good is. People on every single continent have done the most wicked and horrible things, and justified them as good. John 16:2 even says, "in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God."
 
So what exactly is evil? Let us look at some partial descriptions of evil, and then attempt to develop a comprehensive definition.
 

Evil is Like a Deceitful Weight

Weights were important in the ancient world for measuring out grain, salt, and other items of trade. Deuteronomy 25:15 and Leviticus 19:36 mention an important point when they refer to a perfect and just weight. Proverbs 11:1 and 16:11 say a just weight is the Lord's delight. Proverbs 20:10,23 and Micah 6:11 condemn people who use diverse and deceitful weights.
 
1. One definition of evil is, "whatever I do not like." If all described by this was evil, then what about the dentist's drill, the surgeon's knife, or the kid who is screaming because she has to take bad-tasting medicine. What about the contradictory situation that arises when a parent disciplines a child. So this is not a good description.
 
Bad things can serve good purposes to:
Refine our faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7
Help us die to sin. 1 Peter 4:1
Test our faith and develop perseverance. James 1:2-4
Be used not for our sake, but for others. Colossians 1:24
Be a sign to help unbelievers. Philippians 1:28
Just comes with being a Christian. 2Tim 3:12; Php 1:29
Sometimes we can see no other reason, except that our persevering glorifies God. See Job 1:8-12; 2:2-6.
 
2. Another definition is "whatever is not good for me." If so, what about the things a child judges are not good? for him, like vegetables. What about the criminal who is jailed for the good of society, not his own good?
 
With this view there is a problem of perspective. In 1 Cor. 15:12-19, Paul says that what he is suffering for and preaching about is useless, and we would be the most pitiful of men, if Christ did not really rise from the dead. Paul clearly saw that what was best for both his hearers and himself would be very different if Jesus was not resurrected. In Matt 10:39 and Mark 8:35 Jesus said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." In other words, whoever is willing to lose his earthly life will find genuine life in eternity, and whoever lives only for this life will have lost for all eternity. So what is best for a person's life depends on if you focus exclusively on the short-term earthly life, or on the long-term eternal life.
 
3. A third definition is "whatever does not bring about the greatest good for society." In John 11:49-52, Caiphas the high priest said about the plot to kill Jesus "...it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." In a strange, unintended sort of way, he was exactly right. That did not make crucifying Jesus good, though. Judas' betrayal of Jesus was a necessary part of Christ's death, which brought about our salvation. Does that mean Judas should be our hero for being good? Of course not. Acts 2:23 says Jesus was handed over through God's set purpose and foreknowledge. Yet Mark 14:21 says it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born. Judas' crime was heinous, but God used Judas' evil choice to bring about the greatest good.
 
What is the standard?
Not only do many people do evil things, but many people do not even recognize what evil is. The dishonest trader, when caught, can try to say, "My weight was correct; the rest of the weights in the word are wrong." Likewise, we can try to say, "evil is relative, and it is my own puny perspective, that determines what good and evil are for me."
 
In Mark 10:18, Jesus said that only God is good. Among the many profound things we can learn from this is that God is the standard for goodness, and we can only talk about real good and evil from His standard. As a deceitful weight is one that has been shaved, cut, or chipped to be less that it used to be, evil is a deficiency of what God desired. As a deceitful weight is less that it is claimed to be, evil is a lie, a cheating misrepresentation of what God created as good.
 
So to understand evil, we have to understand that God is good, in the sense that He, as a Holy Creator, has set the standard for goodness.
 
 

Is a Hole a Thing?

People can have illusions about evil, but evil is no illusion. People can have illusions about anything, but illusion does not remove the reality. Evil is like a hole in a farmer's field of goodness. A hole is not a "thing" but an absence of a thing. It is not an illusion, though; for people can step in hole they do not see and twist their ankles. If all goodness comes from God, a "hole of evil" is a "thing" that does not.
 
So to understand evil, we have to understand that God is good, in the sense that nothing is totally good except God alone. God provides goodness, and evil is a deficiency of goodness.
 
 

Did God Create the Shadows?

God created everything, right? If so, then did God create the shadows, too? If a shadow is where light is blocked or reduced by an object, did the light or the object create the shadow? ¾ No object, no shadow. Yet, no light, no shadow either. You might confuse a shadow with an illusion, but illusions do not affect you, except by your believing in them. Plants that need the sun die in the shadows ¾ regardless of what a person believes.
 
Shadows really exist, but shadows do not have an existence independent of the light source and the object blocking the light. Evil really exists, but evil does not have an existence independent from God who is light and the source of all goodness, and beings who have the free agency to shadow God's goodness.
 
Nobody, including God, directly created evil, just as on earth nobody directly creates shadows. God did indirectly create evil, just as on earth a light indirectly creates shadows.
 
So to understand evil, we have to recognize that God is good, He is the source of all goodness, and there is no shadow with Him (James 1:17).
 
 

What is Good?

In Genesis 1 and 2, God pronounced all creation as good before the Fall. Jesus said in Mark 10:18 that no one is good except God alone. God is the source of goodness, but as Thomas Aquinas observed, defining God as good only because God is the source of good, is no more valid than defining God as a physical body because God is the source of all physical bodies.
 
A tentative answer is that goodness is that which matches the character and desired will of God. We are commanded to do good in 1 Tim 6:18, so we can be good in a limited sense. God is good in a higher way, because 1) He is the source of all goodness, which He provides to us 2) He is the standard by which goodness is seen, 3) and nothing is totally good except Him.
 
 

What Scripture Says About Evil and Sin

Gen 2:17 God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Many times what we know determines if our intent was evil.
Romans 14:23 "...everything that does not come from faith is sin."
James 2:10 Breaking one point of the law makes you a lawbreaker.
James 3:2 You would have to be perfect to never be at fault in what you said.
Psalm 37:19; 49:5 Matthew 6:34 Some times can be evil
Matthew 5:45 The sun rises on the just and unjust.
 
 

Conclusion

Moral evil is defined as anything and anyone that goes against goodness, as defined by God. Not only do we do evil things, but we are evil ourselves. Evil can be compared to
A deceitful weight for measurement
A hole in the fabric of goodness, or
A shadow of God's light.
 
Now that we have an idea of what evil is, the next papers discuss why God chose to allow evil.
 
www.Biblequery.org. Bible verses from the NIV.
 
 


 

If the Almighty is All-Knowing...;

"If God is almighty, all-knowing and all-loving, then..."
This is how the question is sometimes phrased by people who do not read the Bible enough. While God shows some mercy to all, reading Rev 21:11-15, Rom 11:22, or countless other passages should convince you that the God of the Bible is not all-loving, to the exclusion of His other attributes.
 

A Second Try

"If God is almighty, all-knowing & very loving, then..."
 Why does God let people sin?
Why does God let bad people hurt others?
ƒ Why do bad things happen to godly people?
Why can people reject Jesus and go to Hell?
Why does God allow evil in a fallen world?
 
These are common questions Christians ask. This paper used Bible observations plus interpretation to speculate on complete answers. Regardless of whether you agree, hopefully this will encourage you to study God's word to find answers yourself.
 

Some Verses Describing God

Almighty
God is almighty. Luke 1:37; Jeremiah 32:27; Isaiah 1:9
All God decrees happens. Isa 14:24,27; 43:13; 55:11; Jn 10:26-28. God is sovereign over all. Isa6:5; Ps103:14
He does as He pleases.Mt20:15; Ps115:3;135:6; Rm9:20
Nothing is too hard for God. Gen 18:14; Job 42:2; Jer 32:17; Mt 19:26
God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13), lie (Heb 6:18; 1 Sam 15:29), or be tempted by evil (James 1:13).
Nothing occurs besides what God allows. Job 1:12; 2:6; James 4:15
Every "decision of the lot" is from the Lord. Pr 16:33
All things work together for His will. Rom8:28;Eph1:11
None can thwart God's decrees. Isa 43:13; Rom 11:29
Many "succeed" in resisting God's commanded/desired will. Acts 7:39,51; 4:11; 13:46; 14:2; 2 Cor 6:1
We can do some things on our own initiative. 2Cor 8:17
In summary,
God's power is bounded only by Himself. Everything happens that God commands. Nothing happens that God does not permit. God can choose for a time to delegate His sovereignty and to permit some things that break His heart, but ultimately everything is woven together in His plan.
 
All-Knowing

He knows and sees all, including the future. 1 Jn 3:20; Jn 21:17; Ps 139; Pr 5:21; 15:3; Heb 4:13; Isa 46:10
In summary,
all knowledge, past, present, or future, is available to God. However, scripture is silent on God knowing every detail of all hypothetical situations.
 
Very Loving

God is loving (not all-loving) 1 John 4:16; Ex 20:6; etc.
God is good to all, and has tender mercy over all He has made. (Psalm 145:9,17)
In summary,
God has compassion on all, we cannot fathom the depths of God's great love for His elect, but God's wrath on those who reject Him is severe.
 

Why does God let people sin?

This question has troubled people since ancient times, and it is an important question, since the Bible records Habakkuk questioning God in Habakkuk 1:1-4.
 
God answers this question in two parts, with a picture of the future. The first part, Habakkuk 1:5-11, shows that their happiness is short-lived, for an even more ruthless people will soon conquer them. God's toleration of sin on earth is only temporary. If we could only take to heart Ps 39:4-5, and ask how lengthy earthly life will seem, millions of years from now, this answer would be so clear to us. The second part of the answer, Habakkuk 2:1-16, is discussed next.
 

Why does God let bad people hurt others?

God permitted infant sacrifice to Baal in Jeremiah 19:5, even though "this never entered God's mind." God allowed people to be killed who should not have been, in Ezekiel 13:19 God even permits people to encourage the wicked not to turn from evil and be saved in Ezekiel 13:22.
 
Some might think this question disrespectful of God. However Habakkuk respectfully asked this question in 1:13-17. With prayer and respect, it is OK to ask God even questions like this, and patiently await an answer.
 
God answers this question by painting a picture in words. The first part of the answer, in Habakkuk 2:2-20 details the sins of the oppressors, and their fate, in this life. Aptly, Habakkuk writes that they enlarge their desires as Hell in Habakkuk 2:5. Not only will they come to ruin, but as they weary themselves in vain to feed the fire in Habakkuk 2:13, their hopes and labors will come to nothing.
 
The second part of the answer, in Hab 2:1-16, shifts the focus to "an appointed time" in Hab 2:3, the end times and the last judgment. Many wicked do appear to live well all their life on earth, and life only seems just if our focus includes eternal life, as Psalm 37 shows.
 
David prayed to God about his own bitterness towards the violent and wealthy in Ps 73. Once David entered the sanctuary in Ps 73:17, he saw clearly the same answer Habakkuk saw. It is a certainty that God will severely punish their sin, but it is God's discretion to punish their sins in the timing He chooses. As 1 Tim 5:24-25 implies, some consequences of sin come sooner, and other consequences are delayed until judgment day.
 
When Corrie ten Boom was in a Nazi concentration camp, a Jewish former Violin player, whose fingers were gnarled by Nazi torture, asked how Corrie's God could let this happen. The lady was in no mood for a theological discussion. Corrie answered that she did not know. But she did know that her Savior came to earth, and He too was tortured unjustly, and he experienced what she experienced and understands her pain. Amen!
 

Why do bad things happen to godly people?

Sometimes we can see reasons for calamities happening to Christians. Paul first preached to the Galatians because of illness in Gal 4:13. Paul was given some sort of thorn in 2 Cor 12:7-10 to keep him from being conceited. Christians who took the Lord's cup lightly were disciplined with sickness and death in 1 Cor 11:29-32.Christians, as Paul (2 Tim 3:10-12) and John (Rev 1:9) suffered persecution for the Gospel.
 
Yet most of the time, we cannot see the reasons for trials for the godly. We must be content to wait until Heaven to know the reasons for many things. We can say in general though, that trials develop perseverance (James 1:2-4). All things, even evil things, work together for good for those who love Him (Rom 8:28).
 
A whole book of the Bible, Job, explores this question. Skipping over the many subtle truths in Job, we can say:
 While the suffering was instigated by Satan, God permitted it and used it for His glory.
After this was over, a secondary result was that Job knew God in a much more personal and intimate way.
ƒ During the whole trial, Job had no idea why this was happening. In a way, this too was part of the trial.
Job's three friends had all the answers for Job; unfortunately, they were the wrong answers.
In summary,
1.God can allow whatever He wants;
2. Today there are many things that are not right, and
3. When Judgment Day comes, all will be set right.
 

Why can people reject Jesus and go to Hell?

Why did God give us this responsibility, both awesome and awful, to choose to accept or reject Jesus, and have our eternal destiny determined accordingly? The answer might have to do with the value God places on us. God created us in His image, not as robots. He so values our free agency, that He allows us to choose our destiny and live with our choice. He allowed Adam and Eve to do the same, with the awful consequences for them, and their descendents. Perhaps God could have gone back in time and "uncreated" Adam and Eve, but for whatever reasons, God chose not to and let man's choices stand.
 

Why does God allow evil in a fallen world?

Both the newspaper and the Bible show the world contains evil as well as good. From John 9:1-3, the man was not born blind because his sin or his parents. In Luke 13:1-5, the murdered Galileans, and those on whom the tower of Siloam fell, may have deserved these things, but they did not deserve them any more than everyone else.
 
Rom 8:19-22 shows that after the Fall, God subjected creation to corruption. Corrupted man was not permitted to live in an uncorrupted creation. We have natural disasters, temporary injustice, and man's inhumanity to man. Since the Fall, 1 Jn 5:19 says the whole world is under the influence of the evil one. The god of this age is Satan in 2 Cor 4:4. Satan is the prince of this world in Jn12:31; 14:30,16:11; Eph 6:12; Col 1:13. Given that God allows evil, and Satan is the prince of this world, what do you expect? But why did God allow evil in the first place? That is the next subject.
 
 

Why Does God Allow Evil?

Many questions, such as "Why does God let people sin", "Why do people hurt others", and "Why do bad things happen to godly and ungodly people", can all be partially addressed with the same answer: because God allows evil to exist. More fundamentally, why did God allow evil to exist? and what is evil, anyway?
 
This paper attempts to answer the following questions:
 What exactly is evil, anyway?
Did God create evil, and if not why does it exist?
ƒ Is this the best of all possible worlds?
Why do we all have so much pain?
 

What Exactly is Evil?

Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas thought long and hard on this, and they speculated that evil is a deprivation, or lack of good. If an infant cannot walk or understand truth and beauty, that is not evil, because an infant was not created with the purpose of doing those things while still an infant. However, if an adult cannot do those things, we would generally consider this imperfection an evil in is called a "metaphysical" sense.
 
Generalizing, evil is not completely fulfilling what God desires for you. All are still a part of God's plan, willingly or unwillingly. However, it is evil when we do not do what pleases the One who created us, who is also the One for whom we were created.
 

Didn't God Create Evil?

In the King James Version of the Bible, Isaiah 45:7 says, "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." Modern translations use instead of evil, "calamity" (NKJV, NASB), "disaster" (NIV), or "woe" (NRSV). These are all grammatically valid for the Hebrew word, ra' and have the same dilemma. Did God means to say He creates 1) physical "evil" (i.e. calamity), 2) moral evil, or 3) both. All agree that God can bring calamity, but does God also "bring" moral evil?
 
God is not the author of evil.

Psalm 77:13 "Your ways, O God are holy." See also 1 Peter 1:15
God does not create evil and darkness directly, rather these are indirectly created as a deficiency of goodness and light.
Psalm 5:4 says that God does not take pleasure in evil, and the wicked cannot dwell with God.
James 1:13 says God does not tempt anyone.
 
However, God uses evil as a tool.

As discussed in a prior paper, Judas' evil act was used as a part of God's plan.
As discussed in "If the Almighty is All-Knowing...", God deliberately and intentionally brought the ruthless (and evil) Babylonians against Judah.
As Joseph says frankly to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good..."
In Romans 9:17, Exodus 9:16 God raised up Pharaoh, knowing who he would be, to display His power.
In Romans 9:22, God made some (Babylonians included) as objects of wrath.
We could go on, but the point here is a concept called concurrence. While God is not the author, instigator, originator, or coercer of evil, God is adept at often using the evil of others for His purposes. As Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,..."
 
Evil is a tool for punishment and discipline. It is also a means of testing and giving us choice on obeying God.
 
In summary,
one cannot say God is the author or direct creator of evil, but the evil of others is one of His tools. He created evil only in the sense that light and objects created shadows.
 

Is This the Best of all Possible Worlds?

Given all the possibilities for a world, is this really the best possibility God could have come up with? The co-inventor of calculus, Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716), wrote extensively to try to justify this. However, is it not possible to imagine a world with less evil, less suffering, and couldn't God have created that instead? As a Christian, how do you "defend God's workmanship" and prove this is the best of all possible worlds, evil and all?
 
The bad news is that you cannot do so; the good news is that there is no need to. God never said this was the best of all possible worlds, or even that this fallen planet is a great world. Rather, Heaven, or more properly, the new Heaven and the new earth is the best of all possible worlds. As Norm Geisler said in The Roots of Evil, this is not the best of all possible words, but the best process to the best of all possible worlds. The spherical rock we are all living on is, for us, just a stepping stone in space to the best of all possible worlds. For others, earth is a have of numerous second chances, a last stop before the final fall into the place of no second chances.
 
The best of all possible worlds, as I can imagine it, is a place where we have free will to do good or evil, but everyone will do good, without fear of falling. We can freely choose to love God or not love God, but we have 100% freely choose to love God. It is a place of perfect justice, which would be a perfectly fearful place for us sinful creatures, yet we will need not be afraid at all. We will appreciate, in a way no angel can, the richness of the forgiveness for our sin, yet we will have no sin. Having experienced being impure, we will cherish all the more our holiness, given to us and the true love we have for each other. Yet the greatest part of all will be to gaze, face to face, on the wondrous source of goodness, beauty, and light.
 
How adequate is our imagination to describe Heaven? As 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, "...No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit." As 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, "Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
 

Why Does Everyone Have So Much Pain?

Even with everything said so far, why is there still so much pain? For some this is a very serious question. In Job 3:11-14, Job's suffering was so great, that he asked why he was born alive; he would have preferred to have been stillborn. One can ask why our pain is not less. I suppose someone could also ask why the pain is not greater, too.
 
Since the fall, God could have made everyone feel only half the pain they felt, or twice the pain, but what He chose is what we have. Of course the pain we feel on earth is very brief compared to eternity, but why do we feel the pain we feel? If all pain was unbearable, we could not concentrate on anything but the pain. If there were almost no pain, we could be quite comfortable on earth, too comfortable in fact. Pain is a reminder that earth is just a temporary place we should not be satisfied with. Pain shows us that all is not right with this world, and that we need to seek a better one.
 
Ours is a mixed-up world. Why do movie stars kill themselves, while undernourished children can still laugh and play? Why do some students have such pain when they have to drive a Toyota instead of a Porsche? And how could tens of thousands of early Christians prefer a very painful martyrdom rather than worshipping Caesar as well as Christ?
 
Philippians 3:20 and 1 Peter 2:11 show us that we are but aliens and strangers in this world; we are just passing through. Even so, it is only fair to remark that the best process to the best of all possible worlds is definitely not the most comfortable process. But, given the shortness of our time here, and the glories of Heaven, that is OK.
 
C.S. Lewis wrote an entire book on The Problem of Pain. One of his most famous quotes is, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (p.93)
 
The one thing we can conclude about our pain is: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." 2 Corinthians 4:17
 

Summary

Evil is an imitation, a lack, and a shadow of good.
God is good and there is no evil with him
God is not the direct creator or author of evil, but it was created indirectly, as a lack of good
God uses evil as a tool, as all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)
Evil is a temporary situation in God's plan
This world is not the best possible one, but it is the best way to the best possible world.
Pain has many purposes, including discipline and punishment. As much as anything, pain and injustice are reminders that this current world is unstable and unsuitable as a final home.
But how does God's permitting evil relate to His justice? God's justice is the next topic.
www.BibleQuery.org. Bible verses from the NIV.
 

The Justice of God

Is God Fair?

By what standard do you ask this question? Human beings can have very peculiar ideas of fairness. For example, the Mongol rulers during the Yuan Dynasty in China had a "rule of nine". If a person was convicted of treason against the Emperor, not only was he or she killed, by everyone directly related to them by blood or marriage was killed too. Everyone related to those people by blood or marriage were also killed. This went on through nine links. So the "rule of nine" was considered fair by the Mongols, but thankfully God is NOT fair by Mongol standards. Nor is He required to be fair by anyone else's standard either.
 

God is Just by His Standards

While mankind can make no claim as to how God has to meet our standards, God is in fact just by His standards. Some say that since God is infinite, we would have to be infinite to comprehend anything about God's justice. However, while we cannot understand everything, we can understand many things about God. If we as finite beings could not understand anything about God's justice, we might as well close all our Bibles right now, for we could not understand the love, wrath, or any revelation from the infinite God either.
 
Rather, God, who can do anything, is capable of communication, and He has revealed many things about His justice in His Word, the Bible. Here are some of the things He says about Himself.
A person is not judged for another's sin. Rather, each dies for their own sin. Ezekiel 18:13-14,17-20
God is just and fair to those who have not heard the Gospel. Romans 2:2,6-16; 5:13
God overlooked some past ignorance, but all must repent. Acts 3:19;10:35; 17:30; 20:21;Romans 5:13
Sin exists, but is not taken into account when there is no law. Romans 5:13; 4:15; 3:20
 

Just vs. Equitable

Equitable means treating everyone equally. Many people confuse being just with being equitable, and believe God has to be equitable. God deals with babies who die, those with little knowledge, and those with much knowledge differently, but nothing in the Bible says He has to deal with everyone the same. In fact, 2 Peter 2:20-22 says it would be better for them not to know the way of truth, than to know the way turn their back on it. John 15:22-24 also shows how serious it is to learn the truth and then reject it.
 
As far as salvation goes, the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16 shows that God is both just (in keeping every word He said, and inequitable, by being more gracious to some than others.
 

Justice and Afterlife

Habakkuk 1:2-3 asks how long before God will act, since the Israelites were wicked and acting violently toward other Israelites. God answers that it will not be long, because He will send the ruthless Babylonians to take them away. Habakkuk now sees a greater problem. How long until God punishes the Babylonians, who are far more wicked than the Israelites. God answers to simply wait for the end, Judgment Day, when the Babylonians and others will get all that they deserve.
 
In Bible times and today, some wicked people have lived long and wealthy lives, dying peacefully after causing suffering to many. How can these people get justice? Martin Gardiner, an agnostic and former editor of Scientific American magazine, wrote in The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener why he believed in an afterlife. His point was that if you believe everyone will receive justice, and many people die without receiving anything approaching justice, you have to believe in an afterlife, where justice will be done. Centuries before, Lactantius (c.303-325 A.D.) made almost the same point in The Divine Institutes book 6 ch.9 p.171-172.
 

God's Promise of Justice

In both the Old Testament and New, God promises that He will come. Psalm 50:3 says, "Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that he may judge his people:"


 

However, do not get too comfortable with that promise; do not be too eager to get the justice you deserve. There is no one who does not sin, according to Psalm 143:2; Romans 5:12-19; Colossians 1:21, and Ecclesiastes 7:20.
 
How good you do have to be to get to Heaven? Two old friends from different groups were together for breakfast. One said that last night he dreamed of the other person's heaven. It was dirty, crowded, and not a very nice place to be. The other friend said he also dreamed of the other person's heaven. It was beautiful, so pure, and totally empty!
 
Now we do not want rats, roaches, and other dirty things in our houses. Parents have even been known to wash off really dirty kids with a water hose outside, before they would be permitted in the house. If we feel that way about our houses, how does God feel about His perfectly holy house? Just as we have the right to let only (reasonably) clean people and animals in our house, God has the right to let whomever He wishes into His Heaven.
 
So how many people are clean enough to merit going to Heaven? Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If everyone got what they deserved, Heaven would in fact be empty of people. Well, except for one man.
 
Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22), became the way for all who wish to follow to go to Heaven. He voluntarily chose the gross injustice, of the sinless one suffering and dying for our sins, to pay the price for our sins. For we who accept this free gift, we have submitted to God's process for making us holy and pure for Heaven.
 

Justice Cannot be Arbitrary

Is God arbitrary in forgiving the sins of some people but not others? Or why can't God be arbitrary, severely punishing the sins of some people, and just winking at the same sins in me? If God were arbitrary in punishing some sins and not others, that would not be justice. God forgiving some people and not others is not arbitrary, because Jesus Christ met the demand of God's justice by taking the punishment for our sins.
 
Once a teenage girl stood before a judge for speeding. The judge declared her guilty, and fined her over $100. Then the judge got out from behind the bench, took off his robe, pulled out his wallet, and paid the fine. You see, the judge was the girl's father. The judge could not just pronounce a guilty person as not having committed the offense. But the judge could pay for the offense himself. And that is the wonderful thing God did for us.
 
For all who will accept this free gift, our sins are taken away through Christ's blood. It is not a free gift to be taken lightly; it was very costly, costing the death of Jesus. It is a free gift to be taken gratefully, as it is freely given to us.
 
However, it does not automatically do you any good. Suppose a multi-millionaire told you he set up a bank account in your name for one million dollars; all you had to do was go to the bank and tell them your name. If you did not believe him, you might be penniless and starve to death; because you chose not to receive the million dollars reserved for you. In a similar way, Christ died for the whole world (1 John 2:2), just as the whole world is under the influence of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Yet as Jesus told the religious Pharisees, "if you do not believe I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24b NIV)
 
So God is just, but God's mercy triumphs over justice (James 3:16b) through Jesus Christ.
 

Why Does God Delay?

God has said that He is not slow, as some count slowness, but He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). If God decided to destroy all evil at 12:00 tonight, where would you be at 12:01? God delays so that all who would come to Him will have the time to come. However, 1 Thess. 3:16 shows that God's patience does have limits. God gives us so many second chances, that it is easy for people to forget that there will be a time when there are no more second chances.
 

Summary

So God is just by His revealed standards, regardless of what opinions about justice people might have. God's justice is inevitable, but it is often delayed. In fact, true justice will not be seen until Judgment Day; and until then God patiently waits for all who will come to him. God's wrath is severe, but His love towards His people is even greater.
 
As Romans 11:22 says, "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God..." How do the love, justice, and wrath of God balance? That is the next topic.

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