Sunday, May 17, 2009

An analogy to understand God's view toward evil

I've written before in this blog explaining that God simply will not personally intervene to stop humans from performing evil against each other, whether it is individual "person on person" evil, or the most vile acts, such as the Shoah of World War II. Whenever one tries to understand God and his ways, and tries, from the perspective of an imperfect and flawed human being, to understand God, who is perfection himself, one has to approach such understanding both in layers and also from a number of perspectives. Whenever I think of a good one I have blogged it here. For example, I explained that God will not reach down and save every person who drives drunk and hurts someone because if God interferes with the natural law that he established (natural law being that if something big, heavy or pointed strikes a weaker object, such as a human in a car crash, that matter and energy may result in death or injury), humans will very quickly be unable to survive in the world. They will lose their ability to reason their way through things such as building safe autos, teaching good and safe driving, developing addictions programs, weighing punishment alternatives, and being able to better treat such injuries. If God reached down every time a drunk driver killed someone, and God brought the victim back to life, how in the world would humans function in a world that still operates according to the reality of physics, chemistry, biology and mechanics? So I have blogged that one perspective about why God "allows" evil.

Tonight I have thought of another helpful analogy.

Whenever one is tempted to think "Why did God allow a certain bad thing to happen to another person" (and here, since we are speaking of evil, I mean a bad thing where someone bad harms someone else, not a natural calamity, for example), before one can answer that question, first one must have more of a perspective that reflects God as he really is.

Think of a person's entire life, such as your own, from birth to death as being a single drop of water. Now, visualize that drop of water compared to all of the water that fills the oceans and other bodies of free flowing, frozen, or atmospheric water on earth. It is mind boggling to think of a drop of water "next to" all of the water that exists on earth.

That, brethren, is a suitable analogy, even though it is not grand enough, to describe the difference between a person's time in mortal life (being alive in their material body) and the time that a person spends in eternity after death (either heaven or hell, both of which are absolutely real).

Thus, the drop of water is like one's time while one is alive, and the rest of the water on earth is like one's time as the soul continuing on after death in either God's presence (heaven) or not (which is hell).

God's "priority" then, if you think of God as having priorities, is the saving of souls, since the soul lives on for all eternity, which is immense beyond human understanding, and the soul is either in saved, rewarded bliss in heaven, or in the unbearable pain, torment and total exile from God, which is hell.

Thus, no matter how vile someone is toward another person, either individually or collectively, any vile action is still only a part of that single droplet of water.

Humans MUST learn to manage their own ability to find goodness, under God's direction, within that drop of water. It's not that God does not care or feel the pain and sting of injustice for each and every one of his human children because, as scripture, most particularly the Gospel of Jesus Christ shows, God most certainly does love the person who is suffering, knows their pain, and feels huge wrath toward the evil doer.

But God wants humans to understand what they must understand, which is how to keep perspective and proportionality of how small a life span really is compared to eternity. People need to understand that what they do on earth, during that tiny droplet of water of time, results in either eternal reward and comfort, or eternal chastisement and damnation.

So it is not a matter of an innocent person suffering when something evil is done to them by someone else, for those events occur within the droplet of water. However, the sufferer, if he or she continues to hold close to God, knows that eternity in his presence will be theirs one day. And the evil doer, likewise, must understand that no matter how small or large the evil, that deed is a most certain risk that they will spend eternity in the total torment of hell.

That is how one must understand the Beatitudes, spoken by Jesus as he preached. Think about specifically:

Matthew 5:10

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousnesses' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Many people make the easy mistake of thinking that Jesus mean persecution for the faith, in other words, those who are persecuted and harmed for being Christians. Thus people sometimes gloss over this beatitude thinking that it refers to martyrs and persecuted faithful. Yes, Jesus refers often to those who are reviled who belief in him (and in 5:11 he compares those who are persecuted for their faith with the prophets, most of whom were persecuted, who went before). But do not miss a key phrase "for righteousness' sake."

If Jesus meant only martyrs, he would not have said "for righteousnesses' sake," since being "persecuted" is quite clear in its meaning that the persecuted are those who suffer at the hands of evil-doers because of their faith.

No, Jesus is actually extending the meaning of the persecuted to mean not just those who are persecuted for their faith, but those who have wrongness inflicted on them, unrighteousness meted out to them. Righteous people are not just those of the greatest piety and faith. Righteous people are those who do the right thing, who treat people correctly and kindly, and who obey secular and moral laws. Thus, who persecutes the righteous? Those who are unrighteous, which means evil wrong-doers. Thus this Beatitude means that those who suffer as others inflict wrongs upon them, are given "the kingdom of heaven." It is not only the martyrs and those persecuted for the faith who can, according to Jesus, consider the kingdom of heaven "theirs," but all who suffer for the sake of righteousness: of those who continue to be righteous when unrighteousness and wrongs are poured down upon them.

This Beatitude, therefore, must be understood as not only comforting but also specifically referring to the kingdom of heaven as "theirs," to those who suffer through perhaps a really bad event done to them by a criminal or cruel person, to those who suffer martyrdom for the faith, to those who suffer on a grand scale, such as in a genocide. This Beatitude comforts the person who is deliberately impoverished by a robber baron and oppressor, for example, as much as it comforted a saint who went to his or her martyrdom, to those who went to their death in the Shoah. This Beatitude explains that all who cling to righteousness, as they suffer life events, whether the routine sufferings of life when one is afflicted by a wrongdoing, or the extraordinary evil that erupts periodically, can be assured that "theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

This, then, is one way you can better understand God's bigger "picture" and his bigger "plan." Individual human-on-human acts of wrongdoing and evil are of the greatest concern to him, but not in the way that a human, who is by definition living within the droplet of water time frame, may think God is focusing. God has established an unchanging ordering to the matters of heaven and earth whereby unrepentant evil doers (great and small) are not saved and wind up in hell for all eternity, while those who clung to righteousness even as they suffered are given as "theirs" the kingdom of heaven.

This is not to say that one is helpless in all circumstances of being the victim of evil, and that God will never intervene or that the Holy Spirit does not move to try to aid the victim and convert the heart of the tormentor. But I thought that this analogy of the water droplet, combined with a commentary and explanation of the Beatitude to enlighten the reader of God's "viewpoint" would be an important foundation as to why God does not seem to be as totally in the moment of an innocent person's suffering at the hands of evil doers as one might expect or hope. The real tragedy is that humans have stopped a large part of their own evil behavior regulation as they stopped understanding that hell and eternity are very real and inevitable consequences of continual and unrepentant evil doing.

Paul describes well the two types of righteousness. There is the righteousness of the faith (which is what most people think of when they read that word in the scriptures) but there is also the righteousness of doing the right thing versus wrong doing, including in secular matters. Remember that much of the Law given by God through Moses to the Israelites dealt with secular matters, such as how to treat people justly, settle disputes, provide wages and so forth. So read this and understand how Paul is referring to the righteousness of faith, but also the righteousness of routine deeds in life (which was given to the Jews under the law).

Romans 10:5-6

For Moses described the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them.

But the righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above).

Here Paul is not trying to explain the distinction that I point out here, since this passage of his concerns the difference between obeying what God has said to do (both in religious rites and in righteous living, including secular matters) and having righteousness of faith which, for these early Christians that he is addressing, focuses on belief in Jesus Christ and that he was raised by God from the dead.

So I include this so you can see scriptural foundation for what I am explaining, which is when Jesus Christ used the phrase "for righteousnesses' sake," he would say so knowing that the audience would understand that righteousness meant not just righteous faith before God but also righteous living, in both a faith based and a secular way.

I hope that this has given you another aspect of how to view with better perspective God's insistence that humans regulate within what he has given to them their own good behavior (being righteous and avoiding wrongdoing and evil), and that God's emphasis, for lack of a better word, is to remember that life is such an infinitesimally small portion of the eternal life, in either bliss or punishment, that each soul exists throughout and beyond the end of time. God simply will not intervene in 99 percent of the human-on-human evil doing, but God most certainly renders perfect and inevitable judgment and dispensation to either heaven or hell as a result of those deeds.