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Saturday, June 04, 2011

So, Where Was God?

A story over on one of my favorite weblogs, "The Art of Manliness" told of a man named Don who died in the Joplin torndo while sheltering his wife's body with his own. People who knew Don described him as a brave, kind and selfless man from his high school days.

In response there were many who praised him for his selflessness and quoted scripture and simply said, "God bless him."  But, of course, there was the inevitable "Where was God?" post and the list of horrible things that happen in this world that God is supposed to prevent from happening if He really is God and the usual, "Have you actually seen God? No you haven't!"*

So, where was God during the Joplin tornado?  I believe He was right beside people like Don. Just because you may not understand why God does as He does, that doesn't mean God doesn't know what He's doing and isn't right there beside us when bad things are happening.

God simply doesn't view death like we do. We see death as the end of life. God, I suspect, sees death as merely a gateway to the life He had intended for us to have all along.

Christ told us that "Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for another." I think that reaching the point where we actually believe that is the whole point of living our lives in a world like this. This world in which evil is not forbidden or even very much interfered with by God, eventually brings each of us to the point where we can make the ultimate choice one way or another.

What is that choice? In this world every man (and woman) is given the ability to determine for ourselves what we will do next. We are told we are made in God's image and this is one way that we are like Him. Without the ability to choose, we would not be able to create. We would simply do everything by preprogrammed instinct or as a reaction to outside environmental factors. All the abuses mentioned by the gentleman who posted his reaction on Art of Manliness - everything from Auschwitz to priestly pedophilia, go along with people having free choice. If you can choose to do great good, you can also choose to do great evil. Can't have one without the other.

I think the purpose of this world, then, is to bring us to the point where we know enough to make an informed choice as to who we will serve - ourselves or others (and, the fact is, choosing to serve God IS choosing to serve others - there's that whole Golden Rule business that comes with it).

Don chose to put his wife's safety ahead of his own. Our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq choose to lay down their lives every day for the greater good. Firefighters, cops, teachers and billions of others choose to place the needs of others ahead of their own. These are the sort of folk who will be the inhabitants of heaven and the Earth made new. I don't think it would be safe to grant them eternal life without their having witnessed first-hand the consequences of choosing "vigilant selfishness" as a lifestyle. The horrors of this life make either heroes or villians out of us - same horrors but different kinds of people coming out the other side. Ironically, it seems that only when a man chooses to serve others, is he truly free himself. He is able, then to set sail and choose the direction of his own life's voyage without being blown about by circumstance. When he chooses himself above all, he becomes like a survivor on a life raft, blown about by every wind and wave that comes along.

The life of service is free. You choose based on principles you set for yourself and upon your own reasoning, despite the events that might otherwise shape your life. You shape your life, with God's help of course, but it is your ultimate choice to do justly and to love mercy. You are not forced to live that way. God never interferes with that choice. You can walk away at any time.

The life devoted to self on the other hand is, as B.F. Skinner described it, without free will at all, but simply the consequence of the random series of events that happen to you. Life shapes you. You spend life reacting, not acting whatever you might believe. You shake your fists in anger at every misfortune and trial and challenge because those trials and tribulations have no meaning or purpose. They are only miseries to be endured, not challenges to be overcome. The self-centered man is a boat without a tiller in a raging sea. Skinner believed free will was an illusion and for those who choose themselves above all, I believe that is entirely true.

Me, I'd rather choose for myself than have my choices dictated by random chance, accidental evolution or the often malicious actions of others. Ironically, it is in making the choice to serve God and my fellow man that true freedom is given back to me. My will, having passed through His hands, is given back to me scraped clean of the barnacles we tend to pick up in this old world.

It makes sense. I don't think you could make principled, free and loving people any other way than to let them see the consequences of doing it their own way. Perhaps there was no other way for God to create finite creatures like us and safely give us the ability to choose. Maybe this nasty old world is boot camp for those who would be immortal - kind of like BUDS training for Navy SEALs. BUDS training is miserable and painful, but without it, you'd never become a SEAL.

Just my observation - a different view of a wicked old world. Accept it, Reject it. Embrace it or ridicule.

It really is your choice after all.


* And yes I've seen plenty of evidence of God's existence with my own eyes. That was the deal I made with Him when I joined up - show me!
He did so - rather convincingly.

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