If God is what you describe him to be, if God is so huge and powerful and capable and loving and caring and concerned and involved and all of these other attributes of God, if God is this kind of God, then why does he treat the world like he treats it? Why doesn't God do something about the spot we're in? Why doesn't God come down and solve some of these problems that they keep telling us about on these television telethons? Doesn't he understand anything about the creeping Sahara? Doesn't he grasp the medical problems connected with Muscular Dystrophy? Doesn't he have any compassion for children caught in leukemia? Do we have to wait for Jerry Lewis to do God's work? Who is this God? Why doesn't he do some things? And I think the people with whom we work, secular people, some of them not evil people, some of them are unable to jump across that fence to believe in our God because there is a sense in which to jump over that very great ethical fence simply to save their soul is a kind of selfishness they cannot personally stomach. And so they live longingly desiring to know God but feeling they aren't going to condemn the rest of the world just to save their own soul.
I personally feel that the question is attacked with greatest insight in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Now I say that Luke 15 speaks to this very large question I pose, and I say it speaks as you see it as a unity. Now I wouldn't ask you to start a new denomination on this particular idea. But the idea is this, that I think Luke 15 is better understood as one parable than it is understood as three parables. We've all heard messages on the lost coin or the lost sheep or the prodigal son. In fact, probably the prodigal son is one of the ...
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Fred B. Craddock is Bandy distinguished professor of preaching and New Testament emeritus at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Preaching (Abingdon Press).