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So Love Can Flourish

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler
2018 8 Mar

An image of an old-fashioned lock in an old wooden door, the lock plate is shaped like a heart.

If God is good, why __________________________________________?

Fill in the blank however you like. Our doubts about God’s goodness are natural, given the kind of world we live in. If we grant that God is both all-good and all-powerful, why does he often fail to prevent evil?

Perhaps there is no answer that will satisfy people reeling from an incursion of evil into their lives or into the lives of those they love. Healing requires time. Even so, we must attempt at least a partial answer lest we be forced to admit a falsehood—that there are limits to God’s power, knowledge, and goodness.

Let me start by reminding you of a rather strange word—automaton.  An automaton is “a person or animal that acts in a monotonous, routine manner, without active intelligence.” Why start with that particular word? Because if God were to eradicate evil from our world, there would be no such thing as human beings but only highly sophisticated automatons programmed to do his will.

If you want to know why a good God would allow evil, let me offer a one-word answer.


God allows evil so that love can flourish. Though love doesn’t cause evil, it makes evil possible. Why? Because God’s original purpose in creating humans was to create beings with a capacity to love. But love can neither be coerced nor commanded. It has to be given freely or it is not love but bondage.

Being free to love means that we are also free to reject love and to act in unloving, evil ways toward God and others. Remember what Jesus said: “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15). The failure to love God enough to obey him is what fractured the world in the very beginning, opening it to a host of evils. Though evil can present itself as a terrifying, all-destroying power, it is only a maladaptive response to God’s invitation to love. Our refusal is what opens the door to evil of every kind.

Yes, God could have created us without the capacity to love.  And he could have made evil impossible. But we would be robots, forced to do his will because we could not choose to do otherwise.

As you ponder God’s goodness today, ask for the grace to respond lovingly to whatever he asks.