There are many Christians who tell me they do not believe in coincidence. They, apparently, believe that everything that happens lies within the will of God. Certainly that is true with respect to God’s sovereignty over His creation. To say that all things come to me by His hand would be correct with regard to His specific will and also His moral will. Of course all things exist within God’s permissive will, both good and evil, but is it accurate to say within God’s permissive will that all things come to us by His hand? It may be true in the broader sense that evil exists by His permission, but to say that evil intent belongs to God I think is wrong. So also it is wrong to believe that the fruit of evil and the result of sin is of God, for God is without sin. It is just as wrong to say that the collateral damage caused by sinful behavior and evil intent is something that God would perpetrate on men with the exception of His scheduled day of wrath which has yet to come, (not to imply that God’s justice bears evil intent).
It is wrong to believe that everything that results from, or out of God’s permissive will is predestined by God. It is not. Therefore, much of what happens in this world is the coincidental outcome of evil intent and sinful behavior; and this, remembering that there have been many throughout history who commit acts of sinful behavior with evil intent and justify themselves by claiming to do the will of God. But for the Christian there is a larger dilemma in all of this and that dilemma is caused by God’s mercy.
Imagine yourself for a moment standing on the bow of the Titanic. (It won’t be too hard if you’ve seen the movie). Imagine for a moment that, as you look forward, out to sea ahead of the ship, in the pale moonlight you spot the iceberg that Titanic is rapidly closing on. Every fiber of your being wants to turn and sound the alarm, but as you turn to warn the crew of the impending collision, you give thought to God’s will. Is it God’s will that the Titanic should sink? And how should I respond? Certainly prayer is an appropriate response under any circumstance, but there is a certain urgency here that precludes formal prayer. If I shout a warning am I defying God’s will? Certainly if there is no coincidence, if everything is predestined by God I will defy His will by altering my own fate and that of the other passengers and crew. But, what if the Titanic’s demise is not predestined? What if it’s not God’s will, but only the coincidental result of some crew-member’s sinful behavior, or dereliction of duty, drunkeness, or cavorting. My action then could save lives. It’s important then that I decide which is true.
That’s an easy decision. The confusion comes when I mix God’s mercy into the equation. You see, God’s mercy is that He spares us from things that we really deserve. That is, from the coincidental result of sinful behavior and the collateral damage of evil intent that flow out of our own free will provided to us within His permissive will. Sinful things like the prideful behavior that drives men to place themselves on God’s throne and brag to the world that in all their prideful knowledge they have created the unsinkable ship. In a case like that God might choose to withdraw His mercy for a time, or from a place. So, if I’m standing on the bow of a ship from which God has withdrawn His mercy should I shout a warning concerning the coming iceberg, or should I remain quiet and pray? If I follow every fiber of my being and shout the warning have I defied God’s will? I want to shout a warning to you now. A warning about the future I see looming ahead, but maybe I should pray. I can’t go wrong that way.
As I consider the Boston Marathon Massacre my heart goes out to the victims and their families. I pray for them, for the city of Boston, for our nation and for a world that has gone mad in its own depravity. I also pray for our enemies and for God’s tender mercies upon us all, His poor little sheep who have gone astray.