Saturday, January 29, 2011

Good and Evil and What to Do

A "conversation" on Facebook has me pondering on the unsolveable problem of evil. Disease, war, famine, natural disaster . . .

It's a concern of comfort for someone who is experiencing these things. There are bits and pieces in the Bible that suggest (okay, say outright) that God creates good and evil, God brings blessing and curse. And there are places that suggest that evil comes from somewhere else.

When someone is hurting, it's almost impossible to have this conversation. Feeling like God is against you is not when you want to hear platitudes about God's love and care. If this is care, who needs curse?

My sole contribution to this conversation was:

"There is the theory that the Hebrew scriptures are the history of Israel's wrestling with God, that the encounter at the Jabbok is paradigmatic for reading all of the Hebrew scriptures. (I believe it was a Jewish scholar's writing where I r...ead this.) I'm not sure I can elucidate further on that. I think it helps to read with an eye towards mythological or analogical or something other than literal storytelling.

"What does your experience tell you? Does God bring you your pain? Does God bring you the disease that takes loved ones, the violence that divides families, the natural disasters that devastate the good and evil alike?

"Luther has us teach our children:
'The Sixth Petition
'And lead us not into temptation.
'What does this mean? God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

'The Seventh Petition
'But deliver us from evil. What does this mean? We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.'

"In both cases, of scripture and catechism, I'm reminded of a dying's friend's word: "Which God will you believe in? The one you read about in books, or the one who comes knocking at your door?" He said this as he explained the thing God healed most in him as he was dying from his disease was his distrust of God, his suspicion that God hated him and cursed him with the disease. The God that came knocking on his door told him about Love. And compassion. Suffering with. "

Like all answers, it is inadequate. I don't disagree with anything I've said, but in a moment of suffering, I know it's inadequate.

So where does that leave us? I'm not entirely sure. But when I went to bed last night, this conversation was on my mind. As I was turning out lights and thinking about suffering, I was reminded of light shining in darkness. I was thinking about lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. In the face of unanswerable questions of suffering, perhaps the only answer is care, compassion, kindness. Not words spoken, but actions done. Striking a match rather than speaking a curse.

I woke up this morning with this quote on my mind. I'll let Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have the final word here:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. "

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