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Some of my atheist friends ask why God let Christ's death be so gruesome if he loved him and why did God let people like Hitler and Pol Pot live and destroy so many human beings? How can I answer them?
Thank you so much for your honest spiritual enquiry. It is great to hear that you are talking with your non-Christian friends and seeking to engage with them on spiritual matters and with the gospel. We praise God for that and pray for his help to be with you as you continue to defend the Faith.
Jesus’ death by crucifixion was very gruesome, your friends are right. Sometimes the cross has become so familiar to us we don’t recognise the pain and suffering Jesus went through for us. He suffered in many different ways leading up to and on the cross and this physical torture must not be denied but must help us understand that Jesus did that for us.
One important thing to note is that although Jesus really did suffer a gruesome death by a means which was invented by humans, showing their evil and twisted hearts, the real suffering Jesus undertook was the wrath and judgement of God. As we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, we read in Matthew’s account that Jesus cries out,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
The description of the scene shows the judgement of God coming upon Jesus as he pays the price for the sin of the world. For example, the clouds cover the region and there is darkness for three hours. (Matthew 27:45)
Another thing to remember is that the only way for people to be saved from their sins was through the cross. Humanity stands in judgement under God for its rebellion and rejection of him.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
These verses show us that we’re all guilty and all deserve that death. The only way of escape is if someone else dies in our place and the only one able to bear the wrath of God for all people is God himself. So this is why only Jesus, fully God and fully man could be the one to stand in our place.
The final thing to note is that Jesus went to the cross willingly. He says this in John’s gospel:
"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep...I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." (John 10:14-18)
Jesus knew that he was going to suffer and go to the cross. In telling of his death to come in Mark's gospel, we are told that he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. (Mark 8:31-32). Rather than avoiding this, Jesus knew that there was a greater purpose.
Famously, John tells us that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son (John 3:16). So as we look at the cruel crucifixion of Jesus we see God’s love for us, the depth of our sin and the lengths that God had to go to be save us from our sins.
In regards to your second question relating to Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot we can say this: such evil people have always existed and done horrendous things in this world. People like the ones mentioned above were capable of such huge atrocities due to the power and influence they had. Not to take away the seriousness or the level of evil that was committed by these men, but one thing to understand is that all people are sinful and all are capable of great evil. In God’s eyes even the smallest sin is worthy of eternal separation from him as he is completely holy and cannot be near sin.
We must understand that all will be without excuse when it comes to the judgement of God. He is fair, just and righteous in his judgement and all will get what they deserve on that day.
Evil exists because of humanity’s rejection of God, and we are responsible for what we do. In humanity’s free-will we make decisions for good or for evil so we mustn’t blame God for these great evils. On the other hand it is true that God often steps in and prevents great evils from happening, often through answering prayers; he protects great evils from being worse than they could be and he brings much life and hope for people who have suffered from the evil that has occurred.
In summary, Jesus’ death was gruesome but necessary to deal with the sinfulness of humans, including ourselves and your friends. Jesus’ willingness to go to the cross shows us his love for us and demands a response from us to thank him and worship him.
Evil occurs in this world because we live in a world that has rejected God and his ways. God is just and will have vengeance on all evil on the great final day. The question that comes from all of this is what is our individual response? We need to ask 'what about me?'. If you have not done so before, I encourage you to turn your back o your sin, ask God for forgiveness and walk in the way of Christ.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- Philippians 2:5-11
- Psalm 96
- Romans 1:18-32
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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