- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon yesterday by the Rev. C.C. Campbell Gillon at Georgetown Presbyterian Church.
A recent PBS program about September 11 asked, "Where was God?" This is not a problem for atheists, but it is an acute problem for Christians, who cannot believe that God's purposes would include hatred and violence.
Let me spell out what the Scripture says about some of these issues. First, why do bad things happen to bad people and good things to good people? "Whatever a man sows, so shall he reap." This is the divine law.
Why do good things happen to bad people? The Scripture says, "God sends His sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust." This is the divine grace. And why do good people suffer? Here, the Scripture assures us of God's will: "In everything, God cooperates for good with those who love Him."
My commission as a preacher is to tell you the good news from this book and from my experience, that God is good despite happenings that seem to deny it. When we face individual losses, or the loss of thousands in one day at war, we have two reactions. One says God has nothing to do with the evil, and the other is to have a grievance against God.
This grievance in man's heart is what requires the reconciliation between man and God, a process that began in the Old Testament runs through the New. We read today from 2 Corinthians [5:10-21] about reconciliation. And now Paul tells us in 1 Timothy [2: 35] that Christ Jesus is the one mediator between God and humanity: "He sacrificed Himself to win freedom for all mankind." There is one God, yes, but what kind of God? We must look at the unfolding revelation in Christ.
The problem of innocent suffering is the thing that can most likely bring about unbelief. We learn this in the Old Testament book of Job. He is suffering, but he is not guilty. The question is, if such a good man as he can suffer, can he ever be reconciled with God? Job's friends come along and point out that it must be God's justice, and there must be some sin or guilt. But Job maintains his innocence and says, depending on the translation, "I know that my redeemer or my vindicator lives." Job cries to God but receives no help, and yet he believes someone will champion him in the last.
Job, of course, knew nothing about Jesus. So this was a great leap of faith on his part in the justice of God. He believed a champion had to come and vindicate His innocence. In ways, the assumption is that God is not well-disposed toward humanity, and someone must win back God's favor for us. This also sounds like God does not love the world. But the revelation of Christ tells us the opposite: He assures us again that God has always loved the world.
He came to mediate a new relationship between us and God, so we can see that God is not only just, but loving. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son." That does not mean God started loving us then, but that He always has. Jesus is not here to champion us to an unfriendly God. He is the mediator come to reconcile us to a loving God.
Reconciliation in the New Testament is not like settling a dispute between enemies. It is the restoration of the relationship between God and humanity, which man had broken in the beginning by assuming a hostility in God that was never there. Sin is a distrust of God's purpose, an attitude of grievance against God. A doubting of God's goodness. When John the Baptist says the Lamb of God "takes away the sins of the world," that was not all the bad deeds, but that the basic feeling of grievance and distrust would be removed.
That came when God suffered along with us as a man on the cross. God can give no surer proof about His divine purpose for our good than this. Jesus died not so much to make us good, as to make us realize how good God is.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Kevin Wattles at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Falls Church


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