Posts Tagged ‘murder’

I used to tell a joke when I was a child that went something like this…

A vicar and a member of his church were playing golf one day. The church member was having a particularly bad round and as time went on he was getting more and more annoyed. Every time he missed a putt he would shout out “Darn, I missed!!”. As this continued, hole after hole, the vicar was getting very concerned. Again the church member missed a short putt and sure enough shouted out “Darn, I missed!!”. The vicar warned him that this was not a good thing to say and if he said it again God would strike him down. On the very next hole the church member missed a very short putt and just couldn’t stop himself and before he knew it the fateful words “Darn, I missed!!” came shouting out of his mouth. There was a huge flash and a lightening bolt came zooming out of the sky and hit the… Vicar on top of his head, killing him immediately. There was a few seconds pause and then a booming voice came out of heaven “Darn, I missed!!”

This is the view many people have of God. We don’t expect the lightening bolt but we do have an image of God sitting up in heaven just waiting for us to do wrong and punish us for it. We believe that God has set out all these rules and regulations, dos and don’t and now he sits there just waiting for us to muck up. God is waiting like a divine policeman ready to slap the handcuffs on and march us away to hell!! After all God is a God of justice and judgement so why shouldn’t this picture of Him be right? However, my understanding of the character of God is completely different. I don’t believe God sits there with lightening bolts and judgement but with plasters (band-aids) and words of encouragement. I guess it’s a little like a father teaching his child to ride a bike. He gives instruction, he tells how best to do it, he runs alongside us and he encourages us every step of the way. From the child’s point of view we won’t always listen, we’ll have our own ideas, we’ll say “dad, let go of the seat, I can do it!!” and inevitably we’ll fall off. Now, as human fathers and mothers, there is the temptation to shout and say “see!!, if you’d let me help, if you’d done it my way you would have been all right!!” However, on our good days (and God only has good days!) we pick our child up, we wipe away the tears, we put a plaster on the graze and we encourage them to get right back on the bike and try again. God is like us on our very best day, and so much more. He watches us to instruct us, to encourage us, to help us and when we do wrong, when we come of the rails, fall of our bike He is their to wipe away our tears, mend what is broken and restore us in every way necessary. He may have the right to be annoyed, to tell us that we didn’t do what he told us to do. We may deserve to be told off and be sent to the naughty step. However, God is far far more concerned with the hurt we may have done to ourselves than with our disobedience. He doesn’t sit there longing to judge and punish us but longing for the best for us in each and every situation.

 

Just as an earthly father, God has set boundaries for us. Boundaries to protect us and help us. God knows that if we break these boundaries our lives and/or the lives of others will not be as good. God doesn’t make rules so that he can punish us when we break them he makes rules so that we can live life to the full. So God says, look, don’t murder people because if you do they won’t be able to live life to the full but you won’t either. You may be consumed with guilt, you may have to become secretive and even hide away and ultimately you will probably have to spend years without your freedom in prison – now that is hardly being able to live life to the full.

 

I guess it depends how you look at it – some people see them as rules – I see them as pieces of wise advice. It’s up to us whether we take that advice or ignore it. I believe, that at the end of the day, it is us who loses out if we ignore it. God is not going to send a lightening bolt if we do wrong but if we don’t do wrong our lives will be so much better for it.

What About Suffering?

Posted: May 4, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
Tags: , , , , ,

People ask about suffering all the time. How can a God of love, a God who cares allow people to suffer? Either God doesn’t care and therefore allows suffering or God is not all powerful and therefore can’t do anything about it. I believe there is a third way!! Now, before we get too far into this let’s remember that people have been struggling with this question for thousands of years. So, let’s face it, no answer that I come up with is going to satisfy you. You’re not suddenly going to discover the complete answer and tick the box having dealt with the problem of suffering. However, hopefully I can give you a few things to think about.

When I consider suffering I look at it in three ways…

1. Suffering isn’t all bad.

OK it’s easy for me, who is not in pain, to say that. However, I believe it’s true in two areas. Firstly suffering can bring out the best in people, you refine who you are through suffering, it brings you to a better understanding of the human experience, it helps you understand others better, it is a major learning process and on a spiritual level it helps us to identify with the sufferings of Christ (not that I claim to really understand that – answers on a postcard please!).

Secondly, some areas of suffering are preserving and informing. When I lay my hand on the fully on hotplate and I experience suffering it informs me to remove my hand. When I fall and break something it is the suffering that tells me to go and get it treated. So, suffering plays a part in preserving our lives by informing us of potential dangers. The sufferings of others, for example hunger or war, informs us that all is not right with our world. It reminds us of our greed and our anger and our selfishness.

2. Would we allow it?

If you are, or were, a parent would you allow your child to play football? I’m assuming the vast majority of people would say yes. Does that make you a bad parent ? I imagine the vast majority of parents would answer resolutely NO! So as a parent you are happy for, if not encouraging, your child to participate in an activity that may cause him fairly serious injury? A sport where broken bones are not unheard of. Where dead legs, bruised arms, pulled muscles, strains, cuts and concussion are commonplace. An activity where not only they may get hurt they may also cause serious hurt to others. Yet with all that considered we would still say that as parents we are happy for our children to participate in it and hundreds of similar, if not more dangerous, activities. We even allow our children to partake in things that could result in major injury or death. For we know that with enjoyment comes risk and with some risk comes enjoyment. We can’t let our children live a full life without exposing them to some suffering. We would of course prefer them not to suffer but we understand the risk. We can’t smother our kids in cotton wool, after all they may choke on it!!

3. What causes suffering?

Well, in short, our wrongdoing!! Suffering is a result of men and women doing wrong things, making wrong choices or making mistakes. Our wrongdoings cause suffering to ourselves and others. Some of this is plain to see. If my anger overspills and I punch you the result of my wrongdoing is your blooded nose. However, that is just one side to it, the seen result of my wrongdoing. What is not seen usually has more far reaching consequences. The bloody nose that we can see may hide a broken bone or other internal injuries. You may have suffered a twist in your neck. In hitting you I may have strained a muscle or broken my hand. There is the fear I may have instilled in you or others that hear about my actions. There is the guilt that I may feel and your bitterness, hatred or a struggle with forgiveness. There’s the breakdown in relationship between us and so it goes on. The bloody nose is the observable, immediate consequence but the unseen ripples, perhaps, cause more suffering. So it is with much of people’s wrongdoing. The consequences of our actions ripple underneath the surface in the created seen world and the spiritual realm. We don’t know how it works but we understand that our wrongdoings cause suffering, directly and indirectly. The ripple from our actions continue to grow and have effects on those throughout this world. When Adam and Eve committed the very first act of wrongdoing something in the natural world broke as well. Man’s wrongdoing had a huge effect on the created world and our continuing sin now also has a huge effect.

Much of the suffering we see in the world today is a direct consequence of the wrongdoing of others. The hunger we see in the world is due to greed and selfishness of those that have plenty. There is more than enough food to go around, but billions of us choose to have far more of our fair share. God, in giving us freewill, in not creating us as robots, allows this. It doesn’t mean He likes the wrong doings that we do but just as we allow our children to make their own decisions so does God allow us to make our own choices and inevitably our own mistakes.

So, when we ask of God why he allows suffering we can also ask ourselves the very same question. In fact we not only allow suffering we are the cause of suffering. In some ways we need to take more responsibility for our actions. It is easy to point the finger at God when in reality it us us as individuals, communities, counties and indeed as a world who cause suffering and have the power to stop so much of it. Wars, famine, floods, deforestation, loneliness, alienation, racism, abuse, pollution, murder, rape, fear and the list goes on, are all man-made sufferings that we have the power to stop.

So, as you can see it’s nowhere near a complete answer but hopefully it may help us see that there is a third way. I believe in a God that does care and is all-powerful. However, I also believe in a God who allows in His wisdom that which he could prevent by His power.