This was the 500 (and a bit more!) word talk that I gave today for the preaching and teaching module for Teesocs on Romans 1: 18-32.
To look around at the world can be a fairly depressing exercise. You only have to watch the news for a few minutes to see that there are some serious problems. If you look at the lives of your friends and family you see hurt, broken relationships, suffering and pain. Then you examine yourself and unless you're really deceiving yourself you realise that you're not doing too well either. You go through life with good intention, yet you end up not doing the things you want to do and, however hard you try, you end up doing the things you don't want to. You end up hurting the people you love the most.
Let me change gear a bit. Don't you wish God made himself more obvious? If there was a God out there, surely he'd show himself more clearly! How can people ask me to follow someone who it's such a struggle to believe actually exists?
Now you might wonder what exactly i'm going on about – i'm jumping around talking about completely different things aren't I? Well, the Bible says no. You see, the Bible says that the call to follow God based on how he's revealed himself, and the problems of suffering, evil and broken relationships in our world are very closely linked.
The Bible says that God has shown himself to mankind. Though he's shown himself in lots of ways, it says that you don't need to look further than creation itself to see something of the power of God. I'm sure this is something that we've all experienced to a certain extent – whether it's wondering at the majesty of an incredible hilltop view, whether it's through the beauty of a sunset, whether it is through the miracle of a baby being born or whether it's in studying the intricacy of a human cell – most of us have had a moment that has caused us to realise that there must be something powerful behind and above all of this.
But the fact is, though God is the creator of all this, including us, we have all have chosen to reject him. Though he is worthy of praise and worship and complete devotion as the one who made us, we chose to live our lives as though he isn't there, and he is rightly angry at this. Rather than worship him, we chose to devote our lives to far less worthy things – to career, to sex, to money, to our reputation. What's ironic is that he created those things too, yet we worship the things that are created rather than the creator.
In response, he allows us to do the damaging things that we want to do. He has allowed us to mess up the world as we want to. He has allowed us to endure the consequences of our messed up priorities in lots of ways including the way that our relationships with each other are so damaged, causing the hurt and the suffering that we see around us – none of which would be there if God was the most important thing in life, and if the way we lived our lives flowed out of that.
The Bible also tells us that there's worse to come. If we go on rejecting God in the way that we are, then we will face not only the consequences of our sin that we see now but we'll face the judgement of God, and the penalty that that brings.
But though the Bible shows us the problem with the world, it doesn't leave us desperate in the problem with no solution. It also offers hope. If we turn our back on worshipping the things that we worship which aren't worthy of it, if we say sorry to God that we've done that and if we chose instead to put him back in his rightful place in our lives then not only will we be forgiven, not only will relationships with each other begin to heal, but we can have the hope of a time after we die when the problems we face will be over. At that time we won't have to see only the dim reflection of God in the mirror of his creation, but we will be sure of him and his glory because we'll see him face-to-face.