STUDY | Spend the week studying Scripture Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Determine which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | The cross of Christ reveals the love and justice of God in one. The resurrection gives you hope for today and the future.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
things are not as they should be
Watch a child and you’ll understand something about the way human beings work. A child has a remarkable ability to recognize if something is unfair. “She got 5 more minutes to play!” “I got a smaller piece of dessert than him!” Children show us that there is something within us that longs for justice, for good to be rewarded and evil to be punished.
But life isn’t always fair. Things don’t seem to work the way they should. Bad things happen to good people, which makes us ask, “If God is good, then why does he allow this or that to happen?” Why did he let my mom get sick? Why did she get promoted instead of me? Why is my daughter making bad choices, even though we tried to raise her to follow God?
This week your group will discuss what it means to live faithfully in an unfair, broken world. The cross of Christ reveals the love and justice of God in one. The resurrection gives you hope for today and the future.
Q: Why does a desire for justice matter? What happens if we don’t have it?
Q: Is God fair? Explain your answer.
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
a sense of justice
Some look at evil and injustice in the world and conclude that the God of the Bible must not exist. If He’s a loving God, He wouldn’t allow suffering and terrible things to happen to good people. But let’s take a closer look and consider the question, “How does anyone know what evil is?” What makes us cry out against racism, corruption, terrorism, abuse? The Bible tells us that we each have a conscience, given to us by God. We each know what is right and wrong. Like God, we have an innate sense of justice and the way things should be.
Read: Psalm 11:7 and 50:6. What do these verses say about God’s justice?
What makes us do good? Why do disasters often bring out the best in people? What is it that makes someone sacrifice their life to save another? Why do we generously give to help the weak and disabled? The Bible tells us that we do good because there is a measure of good in all of us. An all-good God created us in His image and put that goodness in us. Like God, we are capable of love and compassion toward our fellow man or woman.
Q: Recall a time when you experienced God’s goodness through another person.
FREE TO CHOOSE
God also gives us the ability to choose. As His image bearers, we have the free will to think, speak, act and choose. We can choose to love or do evil. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Why then did God give [Adam and Eve] free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or joy or goodness worth having.”
God hates evil and its consequences, but He also values freedom. If we value freedom, we have to acknowledge that we live in a world where good and evil choices exist. Sometimes, you bring bad consequences on yourself for sinful actions (i.e., you reap what you sow) But there isn't always a direct correlation between what you choose to do and what happens to you. Sometimes you suffer because you're living in a world that's broken and unfair.
Q: Why must love be a free choice?
Q: How can God use suffering to shape your character?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
who's to blame?
God gave Adam and Eve free will to choose Him. They chose, instead, to rebel against God, and the human race has been suffering the consequences of their choice ever since. The world isn’t as it should be. But that’s our fault—not God’s. We collectively refused God, and He honored our request. He let us exercise our free will to reject Him. And we bear the consequences of that choice. His perfect creation was marred with pain, disease and death so that, now, each of us is born into an unfair, chaotic world—made so because we collectively rebelled against God.
Q: What examples from life reveal that the world isn’t as it should be?
Q: How would you respond to the objection, “God could have prevented evil from enter- ing the world and didn’t”?
look to the cross
In this broken world, sometimes the innocent get caught up in the fallout of humanity’s sin and rebellion. Nothing illustrates this truth more clearly than the cross. In Jesus, we see a truly innocent man beaten, humiliated and put to death. The cross reveals an unfair world where innocent people suffer for the evil of others. History’s worst event happened to history’s best person.
But the cross also reveals something else. It shows us that God is good and loving. Jesus did do something about evil and suffering. The naked, broken body of Jesus exposed the world for what it is—evil and dark. It also showed the world that God is full of love and mercy and light.
Randy Alcorn, reflecting on the cross, writes:
The Cross is also a lens showing us God’s uncompromising holiness and justice that demands such a price for sin. It’s also a magnifying glass showing us the sweeping vastness of God’s grace and love but also magnifying the vastness of his love and grace, that he would be willing to pay a price he knew would be so horrific.
Everything before the Cross points forward to it. Everything after the Cross points back to it. Everything that will last was purchased on it. Everything that matters hinges on it.
read: Hebrews 4:14–16. How is Jesus able to empathize with us? Why is that important?
Q: How would you live differently if you saw every circumstance through the lens of the gospel?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
hope for the future
God sent His Son into an evil and unfair world, so that one day we could be totally delivered from it. Jesus’ death and resurrection point us forward to the new heavens and earth when evil and suffering will be no more. Until that day, we must make the choice to trust Him and believe that He truly is good and loving. We must seek to make the world a more just place. To do good in His name to others. To freely choose to serve and let the light of Jesus shine in and through us.
Q: What does it mean to live with hope? What does it look like?
Q: Choose one of the following, then a: Psalms 16:8; Isaiah 43:2; John 16:33; Romans 8:18, 32; Hebrews 13:5b; 1 Peter 4:19.
Praise God for His love and goodness. Where have you seen them in your life recently? Declare your trust and faith in God to work bad things for good and His glory. Remember that God used the most evil act in human history (the cross) to bring about ultimate good.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
• Read Romans 5:12–21 and consider what this passage says about the love and justice of God.
• Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
Love and Mercy Together “All the sin from Adam to the time of Christ was under the forbearance and mercy of God. God in His mercy chose not to punish sin, which would require an eternity in hell for all sinners, although He would have been perfectly just in doing so. Adam and Eve were not immediately destroyed when they ate the forbidden fruit. Instead, God planned a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15). In His love God sent His own Son (John 3:16). Christ paid for every single sin ever committed; thus, God was just in punishing sin, and He can also justify sinners who receive Christ by faith (Rom. 3:26). God’s justice and His mercy were demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. At the cross, God’s justice was meted out in full (upon Christ), and God’s mercy was extended in full (to all who believe). So God’s perfect mercy was exercised through His perfect justice.”
The Real Problem “When we comprehend [Jesus’] sacrifice and His love for us, this puts the problem of evil in an entirely different perspective. For now we see clearly that the true problem of evil is the problem of our evil. Filled with sin and morally guilty before God, the question we face is not how God can justify Himself to us, but how we can be justified before Him.
So paradoxically, even though the problem of evil is the greatest objection to the existence of God, at the end of the day God is the only solution to the problem of evil. If God does not exist, then we are lost without hope in a life filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering. God is the final answer to the problem of evil, for He redeems us from evil and takes us into the everlasting joy of an incommensurable good, fellowship with Himself.”
1. C S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2001), 37.
2. Randy C. Alcorn, If God Is Good--: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2009), 208.
3. “How Do God’s Mercy and Justice Work Together in Salvation?,” Got Questions, accessed April 22, 2020, https://www.gotquestions.org/mercy-justice.html. 4. William Lane Craig, “The Problem of Evil,” Reasonable Faith with William Lane Craig, accessed April 22, 2020, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/ popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-problem-of-evil/.