The Plate Has Spun. Let Free Will Ring.
As Believers, we often encounter people who are bitter against the Father. They experience losses and unfair trials at the hands of others and sometimes blame Him for the outcomes in their lives. How many times have you been confronted with; "Where was God when my father died?"
People lament that they were just living their lives, and suddenly, BOOM, tragedy struck, rendering them victims of things "God allowed to happen." A popular television chef described in an interview how she became an atheist when her prayers for a beloved sister to survive colon cancer weren't answered as she had demanded them to be. This is not uncommon. In anger toward the entity they assign responsibility for the pain or trauma, some move to declaring that He does not exist.
The fact that the person with colon cancer maintained a diet comprised of items God declared as forbidden for human consumption is overlooked. This is an example of the possible root of an issue becoming the tail that wags the dog in the perspective of the "drive by Bible commentators," rather than the other way around. Understanding the laws, trusting their benefits, and walking within them yields the harmony in life that our bodies, minds, and spirits require. Actions outside of that yield death. This is not to say that this was the only reason for a person developing cancer of the colon, but it is to point out that we can never tease apart the curses we have brought upon ourselves when we reject His ways.
The question I am posing and answering is: Did God allow it to happen?
The path to sadness is often a result of escaping a road of thorns planted by people. I recently viewed an emotionally complex film titled: "The Light Between Oceans." As I watched, there appeared to be a lack of assurance about who was the protagonist and who was the antagonist, at least in my opinion.
The deeply moving storyline presented a husband and wife who had suffered the pain of two stillborn children in their isolated home where they tended a lighthouse on the ocean. The day after the second child's death, a small, wayward boat appeared in their harbor. In the boat, they found a dead man and a living infant girl. As you can imagine, this looked like a sign from God that He had answered their prayers. The couple struggled with the dilemma of revealing this discovery to authorities or keeping the child, whom they suspected would be placed in an orphanage. Feeling confident that no child would be permitted to be adopted by a couple so far away from society, they felt that this was their only chance to have a child.
(Spoiler alert! If you want to see this film without being forewarned of the ending, put this blog on hold and then come back after you have seen it.)
As the story unfolds, the husband concedes to the desperation of his wife, and they keep the child. The husband buries the dead man, and they happily embark on family life for four years. During that time, the husband discovers that a woman in the nearby town is grieving the loss of her husband and daughter at sea. The circumstances of the father and daughter being in a boat were brought about by the bigoted attitude of the townspeople regarding the father's German nationality. The biological mother of the child was born into a family of wealth and prestige, though her father had shunned her from the family for having married a German. The father of the baby, during a conflict with aggression, was seeking temporary escape from the hostility of those who might do him and the baby harm, thus his use of the boat for asylum. However, due to health fragilities he had, the plan went terribly wrong, and he died while at sea.
With his conscience tormented, the husband makes the situation known to the grief-stricken biological mother to ease her suffering.The result is that the couple is apprehended and charged under law when the pieces are put together by authorities. The husband protects the wife by taking full responsibility for keeping the child and covering up the truth. Though the plan was, in fact, conceived and pleaded for by the wife, the husband insisted that she was following his orders.
In the end, the wife releases her bitterness against the husband for the ultimate loss of the child she had considered her miracle daughter, and they are prosecuted. The biological mother spoke on their behalf after much thought on her part as to their painful circumstances, and the couple's sentences are reduced. They never have a child. The reunited mother and daughter learn to know each other and go on to have a happy life together. The childless couple endures in their love, and she dies finally accepting forgiveness for her actions. It's a beautiful, albeit painful film, with twists and turns that are emotionally provocative, to say the least.
The accusations that might be lobbed against God in this story are that:
1.) He let the lighthouse tending couple down by allowing her children to die.
2.) He let that biological mother down by allowing her husband to die with her daughter drifting aimlessly at sea.
3.) He allowed that child to be torn apart between the parents she had grown to know and the stranger she was returned to after being torn away from a life to which she had thoroughly attached.
We must step back and ask these important questions. What was the root of the circumstances that placed that child in a boat with her dead father? The root is not God thumbing His nose at her needs. The root is the baby's grandfather thumbing his nose at her needs with a bigoted segregation attitude of partiality. The stem is the hostility of the town toward a person because of their nationality. The leaves are the actions of a physically weak man getting into a small boat with the responsibility of an infant. The fruit is a web of broken hopes and dreams interwoven in the lives of people who all meant well but ended up dead, heartbroken, or ensnared in good intentions gone wrong.
When we walk in our own ways that seem right in our own eyes, we succumb to the abyss of sifting through to discover the answers to questions that remain as debris from the explosion of our actions. Who was wrong? Who was right? Who was more wrong than the other if they were partially right? God's laws are not hard, but the outcomes of violating them are.
Steven Hawkings, an avowed atheist of sorts, asserts; "I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science," he told the BBC in 2007. "The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws." While I am no Hawking fan, what he means as a slam against the God he professes not to believe in, I actually can embrace as a reasonable (yet unwitting) declaration of His sovereign love and power.
God does not break His laws. He lays them out clearly, warns of the consequences of breaking them, and then allows mankind to operate in free will. The charge that He perpetrates curses on people in emotional tirades is unfounded in scripture. Frequently, people quote the NIV's translation of Jer 2:9 to support their view of a cruel, slaughtering God who delights in maiming the innocent.
"Therefore I bring charges against you again," declares the LORD. "And I will bring charges against your children's children. (Jer 2:9)
This verse is plucked out, and not only misrepresented; it is mistranslated. Let's look at the King James Version:
"Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children's children will I plead." (Jer 2:9)
Further, let's get some context in the passages preceding it.
"Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the LORD.Hear ye the word of the LORD, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel:Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?Neither said they, Where is the LORD that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the LORD, and with your children's children will I plead." (Jer 2:1-9)
Wrath version advocates will never see that this was a declaration of love and pursuit by a passionate God in courtship for His wayward beloved. They will promulgate a notion that God is the "big punisher in the sky" targeting infants and toddlers.
Similarly, in Ex 20:1-26 you see this warning
"And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me. (Ex 20:1-6)
The word for "visiting" is also used in Ex 13. Compare:
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”(Ex 13:19)
Place that meaning in Ex 20:26 and you can see what is really being said: "taking care of the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me."
The Lord tells us of the blessings of following the laws that hold the universe together.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl." (Deut 28:1-68)
Should He not warn us of the impending consequences that the innocent suffer when we don't? A warning is not a threat. The conditions of the laws of the Earth were generously described. The clear notice of the result of fracturing them in our lives is necessary. The Father gives us the instructions to guide us. He created the Earth and He knows how it works. The problems with our world are our doing, not His.
If a pregnant woman opts to use meth, are not the consequences going to be upon her child? If she asked the Father if she should expose her unborn child to the damaging effects of the drug, would He give her the green light? Of course not. The results are not the Father's doing, but the doing of the person, with whom He endowed free will.
We might have been predestined to be His Beloved, but we were not preprogrammed. Free will is that wild, undomesticated variable that everyone is complaining about, even if they don't know that is what they are grumbling about. If there was no free will, there could be no devotion. If there could be no devotion, there could be no love. If there could be no love, there would be no benevolent purpose for God to make humankind.
Did God make Himself vulnerable? Yes. He chose to do that, as unfathomable as it sounds. He administered free will so that there could be an organic, true, passionate exchange between Him and humans...which was the point of making us in the first place.
Free will is a gift. Abuse of free will is a curse that affects those around us. If God intervened in the business of man to prevent any consequences from occurring on the innocent, He would be removing the freedom to choose Him. That is when you have a dictator.
The innocent must rise up and choose. The guilty must sit down and choose. Either way, choosing is a major part of the equation that reveals the truest heart of the Father to leave the door open for coming and going. He wants a loving bride, not a cornered robot. Our Father beckons, He does not force. What would be in it for Him if He did? Any "god" who calls for forced conversions, and confessions of loyalty out of fear is not really a god at all, but rather an agent of dictatorial wrath.
Consider this perspective when speaking with people who are angry at God for what others have done to them.
The plate HAS spun. Let free will ring. And let a courtship ensue in the freedom of choice; the only place where passion, connection, and true love lives.