In a time sometime in the future, imagine a group of doctors counseling with a young couple, telling them that they will soon be new parents. But the news is not all good as witnessed by the number of doctors who have entered the room. In fact, it’s terrible. Because of the advance in prenatal care and screening, an awful fact has been discovered.
The head physician speaks: “We have found that your baby has certain characteristics that we have found without fail express themselves in the child’s growth and development into adulthood. First, the child has the gene which tells us he will be a gifted leader.”
“If that is so,” asks the prospective father, “what is the bad news?”
Clearing his throat, the doctor continues. “We have also found a gene which is found in the most vicious criminals, such as mass murderers and rapists. The two characteristics combined are lethal. While I don’t want to alarm you, I need to be truthful. This child will grow to an adult who is likely to be so evil that he could eclipse Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. I can’t state this to you strongly enough. When he is an adult we can state conclusively that he will murder without remorse, and that the death of his victims will not be enough. He will enjoy their sufferings. If you allow this child to be born, you will be birthing something worse than the AIDS virus or cancer in the number of victims and the amount of suffering. Frankly, you will not only suffer by watching what he does, but you could be his first murder victims.”
Stunned, the parents hold each other’s hand, unable to speak, unable to even think. Finally the father speaks. “What about love?”
Surprised by that question, the doctors show their uneasiness, looking at each other while they wait for someone to speak. How does science answer a father’s heart?
“Of course, there is a chance that your love could possibly make a difference. But our studies show that there is less than a one tenth of one percent chance for any good to come out of this child’s life. Are you willing to lose your lives as well as letting this scourge lose on the earth?”
Measuring his words, the father spoke again. “This is our child. He may seem to be totally unlovable to you, better aborted and his body incinerated but he is our son who we already love, even before we hold him in our arms. How loving would it be to destroy him without giving him a chance? What kind of parents would we be to protect ourselves while making no effort to prove what our love can do.”
When Peter was writing to the Christians who were already being scattered, hounded and killed in the first of the great Roman persecutions, he called them pilgrims, reminding them that nothing on this earth was permanent. Nothing, that is, but the saving grace of God as promised through His unshakable Word and as lived by His resurrected Son. In explaining this, he includes a startling bit of information in the midst of a most eloquent exposition of the Christian life. We read, “ye know that ye were redeemed not with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world . . .” (I Peter 1:18-20).
Focus on those last words: “before the foundation of the world.” That tells us that the great plan of redemption was not an afterthought by God, an effort at damage control following the failure in the Garden of Eden. No, it was His plan all along. He was not caught by surprise. He knew.
What does that mean? It means that before that first day of creation when light and darkness were created and then separated from one another, He knew what would happen but He went ahead with creation anyway.
It means that when He breathed into the empty dust and created man’s living soul, He knew that the creature He was raising from that worthlessness would despise the gift of innocence and purity and purposely chose to sin. Yet He formed the creature man anyway.
It means that He knew what history gives in vivid detail. That these creatures in each generation would find themselves immersed in evil, sinners by birth and pursuing sin with a vengeance. That they would stray so far in their stupidity as to prefer to claim their beginnings from mud than from the hand of God. That they would look for any god, but the only One who was, that they would rather spend more effort in building monuments to themselves than invest themselves in knowing the God who formed the building materials, that they would rather grope in the darkness than walk in the light. But God created us anyway.
There are too many examples of this.
Despite the beautiful and wondrous creation God had made, He had to put it aside. Not because the elephants or the deer or puppies were so wicked. No. It was these creatures that had been made in the image of God that spelled the doom of almost all of themselves and the animals as well. God chose to send a flood to destroy all but a sampling of each. We wonder how easy it would have been for God to have left Noah and his family without an ark. He could have left the world to the animals who never did anything to displease Him. But, no. He allowed that little family of Noah’s an escape from His judgement. They survived that awful flood, landed on earth with the most incredible story of deliverance. But in the telling of God’s anger and His grace and mercy, was there any change in how people lived? Was there now a consecration of themselves to holy living? The Scripture record tells us that mankind still found it easier to wallow in wretchedness rather than strive for righteousness.
We are told later of their troubles in Egypt. We need to understand that their problems extended beyond the forced labor of slaves in bondage. In Ezekiel 20:6 and 7, it says, “On that day I raised My hand in oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands. Then I said to them, ‘Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt, I am the Lord your God”(NKJV). And, of course, while still wet from the mist of the Red Sea, they built themselves the golden calf and proclaimed it was this piece of metal, not the Almighty God, who brought them out of Egypt. Nor would that offense stop them. They spent forty years showing how ungrateful, how apt to stray, how defiled a people could be in the shadow of the pillar of fire, the symbol of the very presence of God.
The prophets came. The people, whose sins were layered by each generation on the wickedness of the previous one, were such that they made it clear they were not interested in the God who had gifted them with the land of Israel. The kings, who were to lead them to the worship of Yahweh, instead led them into the whoredoms of a host of false gods and hideous idols. Warned of the approaching judgment to be wrought by the nations that surrounded the tiny split kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the people decided that worshiping the gods of the invading nations would appease them. In doing so they drove the wedge further between God and themselves. Even when the enemy surrounded the cities, their armies battering down the gates of their cities, their arrows flying over the walls, their noose tightening under the cruelties of a siege, the prophets found their words ignored. The accuracy of all they said was proven by the day, hearts hardened and too many cursed with their last breath the only God who ever cared one whit about them.
Then His dear, blessed and beloved Son would leave His bosom for the cesspool of pollution that the world had now become. Would He be welcomed? A handful would but at the end it was clear that even these couldn’t figure it out. What of the Magi? We hear of no change in Persia. What of the shepherds? Again, these voices were silent after their first night of praise and worship. What of the religious leaders in Jerusalem? Too involved with themselves, they failed to see the star, failed to hear the first strain of the angels’ song. And Herod, mocking the faith he was supposed to be defending, used its truth to try to destroy in His infancy this only Hope of the world.
This dear, precious Jesus then began His ministry. How strange it must have seemed to Him to walk on an earth that was rotting from its own depravity, among a people who would rather seek bread than a blessing, would rather have a release from the sickness of their bodies and the weakness of their limbs than to have release from their sins, the sickness of their souls and the weakness of their hearts. Most would be indifferent while others openly hostile.
He knew how it would end. Heaven would witness the dark heart of Judas imagine the worth of His Savior, weigh out the price of only pure soul and decide it was equal to that of a galley slave. And who would enter into the traffic of the buying and selling of human souls? None other than the leaders whose avowed purpose was to lead people in the worship of the God they now despised. The travesty of a trial did nothing to convict the Christ of any crime but rather opened their perversion for history to witness.
There was the reluctant cooperation of a Roman ruler who thought a mere basin of water would absolve him of guilt, waved off the death of another Jew and tried to hide in his palace and away from the annoyance that day brought.
Then Heaven gasped in wonder as the beloved Son was riveted to a cross with His blood, His singularly pure blood, flowing as unchecked as the agony He felt. Nor did the earth’s convulsing, nor the darkness of the hour, nor the words of a dying thief asking to be remembered could stop the mocking crowd gathered with their hellish glee crescendoing over the groans of a dying Savior.
This awful moment was no surprise. He saw it coming. But God created the world anyway. He sent His Son anyway.
Why not abort this cursed creation with its vermin-like human race before the evil could be lived out in successive generations, a repeated tragedy with an endless number of scenes and acts? If this was known in advance, why did He create us anyway?
It is no surprise that parents would love a perfect baby that coos and smiles, that reaches out to be hugged and gives the sloppy kisses that go straight to the heart. Love for a child like this is real, of course, but largely unproven. But loving a child that was known to be a monster, that was the nightmare of any parent, that would be the test of what it was to love.
How could God prove to all the universe what it was to love? By creating beings that were programmed to sing with perfect voices, to praise with every breath? Such creatures would be easy to love. But what of loving beings who rebelled and rejected, who started out their lives already wandering away, who had no hope of goodness despite understanding what it was. Loving creatures such as that would prove once and for all how unconditional love worked, how expansive it was, how unselfish and giving it was possible to be. It was the realization of this that made Paul cry out, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Would it be easier to abort a baby destined to murder his own parents and to make the world weep? Would it be easier to not create a world with beings that would scar the hands of His Son, and break His own heart? The answer to both questions is yes. But God who knew what would happen did it anyway because of the sheer power of His love.
And He has stayed with us here through the blessed presence of His Holy Spirit. Looking, looking, looking for a heart who has grown weary from carrying an unbearable burden. Listening, straining to hear the whimper of a soul who has realized that this is a land of hopelessness and despair, a room with no windows and doors save One. Loving and reaching for the ones who have found that it is the coldest of starless nights with no hope of the morning dawn.
Yes, this is a polluted and filthy world, but He loves it still. Yes, we are a detestable people, hateful and arrogant, but He loves us still. Yes, we have broken His heart time and again, time and again, but He loves us still. And He has “since the foundation of the world.”