Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

We all have tough life questions that we mull over. We all want to understand the world we live in. Here are two hard questions put to me by my congregation, along with two queries about things you will see in our worship services.

  1. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  2. At the end of time, do Israel or the Jews have a place in heaven with God?
  3. Why do some people cross themselves?
  4. Why do some people drink from the chalice?

I’ll begin with the first question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  It is important to recognize that no one but God is inherently or perfectly good.  The apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23 and 6:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The short and fast answer is that misery, death, and suffering came into the world through the sin of Adam, and that is why bad things happen to all people, both Christians and non-Christians. Our Lord Jesus said to His disciples in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

We see here in our Lord’s words both the reality of trouble in this life but also His statement that He has overcome the world.  The substance of His victory is by His life, death, and resurrection through which He overcame sin, Satan, and death.  Of course, this victory does not eliminate trouble and sorrow from this life.  Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of our Lord’s victory which arrives in the middle of human history.  While His victory will totally wipe away the very presence of sin and its consequences, this will happen at Christ’s 2nd coming at the end of this age.  Therefore, it is realistic for bad things to happen to both the righteous and the unrighteous in this life.

The second question addresses the standing of Israel and the Jewish people in their relationship with God.  There are many passages in the New Testament which clearly teach that if any person is to be in right relationship with God, it must be through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ( John 14:1-6, Acts 4:10-12; Romans 6:23; 1 Timothy 2:5,6) This promise of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ is for all people whether Jew or Gentile, but apart from faith in Jesus Christ, whether or Jew or Gentile, a person will not be right with God. So, for any Jewish person to be in heaven, they must believe in Jesus Christ as their own Lord and Savior. There is no place in heaven for Jews or Israelites who do not accept Jesus.

The third inquiry addresses the question of why some people cross themselves.  Let me start by saying that making the sign of the cross is neither commanded by Scripture nor forbidden by Scripture. This practice of making the sign of the cross is done during one’s baptism, where the minister is instructed on page 465 of the Book of Common Prayer, “Here the Presbyter shall make a Cross upon the child’s (or person’s) forehead.”  This instruction, called a rubric, directs the minister to make the sign of the cross and it goes back to that part of the baptismal service directly after the child or adult has been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  The minister then says “We receive this “Child (Person) into the congregation of Christ’s flock; and do sign him with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant unto his life’s end.  Amen.”

The sign of the Cross in this context is a sign reminding us of our baptism in the Triune God, our confession of the Christian Faith, our calling to fight against sin, the world, and the devil, and to remain faithful to Christ unto our life’s end.  As someone makes the sign of the Cross, they are remembering that they belong to God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We are also remembering the command in the Old Testament to love God with all our heart, soul, and might as Moses writes in Deuteronomy 6:5 and then as Christ summarizes the Law in Mark 12:30: “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

As a person makes the sign of the Cross he starts at the forehead, then goes to heart, and then ends in going to each shoulder signifying our allegiance to God with all your mind, heart, and strength.

It is a custom during the worship service to make the sign of the Cross as one is saying the last line of the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed and in Morning Prayer as we sing or say the grace which comes from 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore.  Amen”

In each of these instances, making the sign of the Cross is a way remembering the name of the Holy Trinity into which we are baptized, the God whom we worship, adore, trust, and serve.

The last question for this month is, “Why do some people drink from the chalice?”  

In selections from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke which speak of the Lord’s Supper, they refer to the bread of Passover celebration and the cup which contained “the fruit of the vine” which was wine.  The elements of Communion are bread and wine.  At the end of the 19th century some Protestant churches switched from wine to grape juice for the second element of the Lord’s Supper. This justification for this change was due mostly to objections against the use of wine in any amount.  Many of the churches which favored this change also went from wine in a common cup to grape juice in small individual cups.  It has been our custom to have grape juice in individual cups and wine in the chalice. In consideration of those who may struggle with alcohol, we as a church provide both, and I am satisfied with giving people the option of either grape juice or wine.  If there is anything more you wish to know about these questions or answers, please feel free to speak with me.  Many thanks to those who have submitted these questions! I look forward to answering more.