This past week, one of my friends asked me about my take on 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” She, like many others, has heard this passage quoted regarding everything from cursing to those dying as a result of liver cancer or complications from AIDS.
“If God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, why do people die from drug overdoses? Are they just weak people? Or does God not truly love them?”
I have several thoughts in response to this question. First, the simple truth is that we are a broken humanity. There is none among us who does not stumble daily and become somehow entrapped in our own struggles and transgressions. But we tend to minimize some things (especially those things that are not outwardly visible) —envy, selfishness, lack of love for others — and focus on those things that are outwardly visible as sin or as consequences of sin.
My subsequent thought is that a broken humanity leads to a broken community. And, as a result, we must ask the question, “What could we, as a community, have done to prevent these situations from occurring in the first place?” Were we there when our friends and neighbors were drinking too much? Were we bold in offering help or did we turn a blind eye in hopes that they would get the help they needed elsewhere? While it is true that people make their own decisions, the community must be responsible for caring for its members, too.
Finally, if a broken humanity leads to broken communities, where is God? 1 John 4:8 tells us, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
God is love — but humans are God’s hands and feet on earth. It is the responsibility of those who call themselves lovers of God to show love and compassion to those who are marginalized or outside the realm of being loved. If those stricken with drug addiction, “self-inflicted” cancer, or HIV/AIDS (among other things) do not feel the love of God (or love at all), it is because people of faith fail to show compassion and love.
All in all, then, God does love those who are outwardly suffering as a consequence of sin. But it is the consequence of non-compassion of people of faith (a sin in its own right) that they feel unloved. Humanity is broken, but outward compassion and active love can heal individuals and communities.
Kyle A. Franklin is a recent graduate of Gonzaga University, where he earned his Master’s in Religious Studies. He completed his bachelor’s degree in history and religion at Pacific Lutheran University in 2007 and has worked in both the ELCA Lutheran Church and the United Methodist Church.