Warning: Seriously long musing on the question,
Is God really the cruel, heartless being Christians sometimes unwittingly describe?
Imagine: A psychotic teen filled with anger, bent on revenge, waiting outside a small school. He’s carrying an AK-47; when the children pour out of the school at noon, he opens fire.
That evening two dozen sets of parents are overwhelmed with grief. John and Jane have lost two children in this tragedy, so acquaintances come to sit and grieve with them. Some offer what they hope are comforting words:
“It must have been their time to go,” said one.
“No it wasn’t,” John protested. “They were murdered!”
“But it’s all according to God’s will,” said another. “The Bible says ‘All things work together for good,’ so He must have some plan for making this good.”
“This loss will haunt our family all our lives,” Jane whispered.
“God could have prevented this tragedy, but He allowed it to happen and His ways are always perfect.”
“What’s perfect about MURDER” John retorted.
Jane was thankful when their wanna-be encouragers left. She sighed and told John, “At least they weren’t quite like Job’s comforters. They didn’t tell us it was because of some sin in our life.”
Imagine: Some drunk gets into his car, thinking he’s okay to drive home. On the way he veers into the other lane and smashes into an oncoming car. Pearl’s son, daughter-in-law, and two of their children are killed instantly.”
Later a friend offered the much-repeated words of comfort: “They say God never gives us more than we can handle.”
“Then they lie,” Pearl sobbed, “because this is a lot more than I can handle!”
Beware Quick Pat Answers
In his devotional booklet, Every Day With Jesus, Mar/April 2018, Pastor Selwyn Hughes writes: “Time and again I have sat before a weeping man or woman in whose life something tragic has happened and heard them say, “If God loves me, why did He let this happen?”
He goes on to say how Christian often struggle with the fact that God allows bad things to happen to good people, and they prefer to rationalize the issue rather than face it.
“I must have done something wrong and God is punishing me.” Or like Job’s comforters, “You must have done something wrong and God is punishing you.”
And if nothing else makes sense, then, “It was their time to go,” Or “It’s all in God’s will.”
The above examples of comfort offered to the grieving demonstrate ways we tend to rationalize the inexcusable, but what sort of a God are we then portraying? He could have prevented your twelve-year old daughter from being kidnapped, raped and murdered – but He didn’t.
How cruel is that? If I stood by and did nothing while some crazy killed a child, wouldn’t I be guilty of complicity? Yet we have no idea how much and how often has God spoken to this person, urging him to turn away from evil thoughts and deeds. God has never adopted the policy of striking sinners dead — or Earth would be an empty planet!
In cases of a sudden heart attack or other non-violent death, it’s easier to find comfort in the thought that “His/her time was up.” Or “Their work on earth is done.” These thoughts do work sometimes. The world’s been saddened these past few weeks by the death of the beloved Queen Elizabeth. At age 96 and in relatively good health up until her death, I think we all feel that it was her time to go.
But can you imagine the guards at Auschwitz herding their prisoners into the gas chambers, saying, “It’s just your time to go.” Or worse, “God’s allowing this, so it must be His will.”
He Gives Us the Right to Choose
We read in the Bible that God id love, that He wants to be our Father, to guide and protect us. However, He wants to be a chosen parent, not one who forces His will on us.
Going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Eve reached out to pick that fruit and opened the door for sin, God could have slapped her hand. “I told you, ‘Don’t touch!’” But He didn’t.
God made his will clear then and it still stands: Mankind shall have the choice to obey Me or not.” Otherwise, in his Court of Justice, He must bring every one of us into account because we have all made wrong choices – and did it knowingly. I believe the verse that says, “God calls all men everywhere to repent,” but His kingdom is not a physical kingdom that citizens are born into, but a spiritual kingdom where all are subjects by choice.
Rather, just as He allowed Eve the choice to reach out and take something she knew was forbidden, so He allows us, all through our lives Christians and non-Christians, to reach out and take the thing we know is wrong, or harmful. To say the words we know we shouldn’t say: the lies, the scathing criticism, the accusations.
Looking back, I think of many times I wish God would have reached down and given me a slap before I said, or did, something. Yes, there was that tiny voice saying, “Don’t” but it’s so easily ignored. He allowed me to make my own choice – and suffer the consequence, the loss, the tears.
At times He does actually intervene and counter man’s will, upsetting the plans of evil people. Usually they happen when He steps in to protect His children from some harm, or lets His child know that the loving Father does care. We often call these miracles and they are happening all the time; I believe every Christian can tell you of an instance where “something told me” or they’ve been prevented from some action or heard a voice giving a clear instruction or answer.
Just one example: A Christian woman in the southern US was standing in her back yard during a wild storm, the tailings of a hurricane, when an inner voice told her, “Get out of this yard.” She obeyed, and a few minutes later a huge limb of a tree came crashing down right where she’d been standing.
Not to say God’s children will never come to harm, but sometimes we are supernaturally protected. Likewise instances like this happen to non-Christians: some little voice says, “Don’t go there.” or “Don’t do that.” The choice is left to them, to listen or to ignore.
Sadly, Christians who feel their Father forces His will on mankind, are inclined to carry this even farther. His way is right/best, so His will should be enforced on everyone, Christian or not. They may carry out personal acts of punishment – my next post will touch on this – or they get into politics and start making laws, Prohibition being the most notable fiasco.
This is our human way of keeping our fellow man in line – the legal hand-slap or lash – and it’s the only way the governments of this world have of preventing evil because they can’t speak to or change hearts. However, through the ages God has worked through the still small voice of conscience, a voice every person in this world hears.