Stopped at a train crossing for a very long time, I was entertained by the graffiti on the sides of the train cars. (Yes, I know it’s defacing the property of others. But not being artistic myself, I couldn’t help appreciating the talent!)
Car after car, beautiful lettering … and then there it was, scrawled in big, ugly letters clear across one car:
God Hates Us All
What a jolt! I presumed this was written by someone of the mindset that if there is a God, why does he let bad things happen?
Back when I taught teen Sunday school regularly (in the 1990s), they had that question too. (It’s one of the most common questions skeptics ask.)
I challenged my teens at that time: “OK, so if you were God, how would you run things?”
They began to offer ideas. But they also began to push back with each other, suggesting that certain procedures wouldn’t produce the desired effect. We talked of how good and bad things happen to both “good” and “bad” people (per Matthew 5:45). Why would God do it that way? We talked of how God wants everyone to come to know him (2 Peter 3:9). How does that happen? They realized that, for example, if there was a country where no one knows God and that country gets no rain, everyone soon shrivels and dies. But if they get rain, they can think about where it came from, start acknowledging/wondering about God. The students could also see that when bad things happen to God’s people, those situations can become occasions for them to lean more on God (not enough power on their own) and to teach other people how to lean on God. We can also watch him bring good out of those sad experiences (a la Romans 8:28). Think of how God worked over the long haul in the lives of the Bible heroes—just like movie superheroes come out on top despite trouble. Big picture.
I was amazed at how the teens kept thinking it out, arguing with each other about how something other than God’s way could make God into something lesser, or how changes to his system would take away our free will to make decisions—good or bad. The typical knee-jerk thinking (that a bad guy should instantly drop dead but everyone who does good should instantly get ice cream) wouldn’t hold up. Their conclusion was fascinating: they would probably do things just as God has decided!
So back to our “God Hates Us All” graffiti artist. Surely he would benefit from thinking more deeply about God’s way of operating—like my teens did. I pray that the artist will do that, will take just one step toward God. And when this topic comes up in our conversations, let’s help others do that.