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Archive for November, 2011

Why Did God Create And Allow Freedom?

How we answer “Why, God?” in times of distress is critical to our relationship with God. We must avoid any misconceptions or mistruths about God’s role in suffering resulting from evil. Evil is not some grand scheme by God. God is not responsible for choices His creations make any more than human parents are responsible for the decisions of their offspring. Our need for an all-powerful, invulnerable God often comes at the expense of freedom. Even God cannot create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be genuine free will. 

The overwhelming evidence is that God chose to be vulnerable, even putting Himself spread eagle on a Cross, to respect individual freedom.  A genuine relationship is only possible if one is free to choose to return one’s love in return. As long as there is freedom, there must be the opportunity to love or hate. God is a respecter of freedom and does not manipulate or override such a choice. The biblical writers didn’t attempt to explain evil, because they understood God gave people the choice to live out their own selfish desires or the selfless desires of God.

God obviously does not intervene by preventing freedom. From God’s perspective three murders are not better than four murders, two women raped is not better than three women raped, and one child abused is not better than two children abused. If God rid of everyone who has caused pain by an act of selfishness, no one would be left. All evil is not the same, but if God was to stop evil before it happens and to be true to character, He would have to stop any wrongdoing. God’s total or constant interference would make a mockery out of freedom. Where there is a free will apparently there will always be evil.

God obviously does not intervene by destroying or annihilating people at the first sign of opposition or when there is continuous, severe rebellion. Future generations after Noah’s proved beginning anew does not destroy evil permanently. At the first sign of rebellion, are we going to destroy our children? Aren’t parents going to attempt to influence and win a child back without denying the freedom to choose? God tolerates evil, rather than instantly judges, in hopes of change and a relationship. Justice though is eventually served for victims. God is extremely patient, merciful, forgiving, and perseverant. God is always seeking to “break through” to human beings to restore what has been lost.

Once evil was chosen suffering become part of God’s story to lead us of our own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings. Parents, as God, are always attempting to persuade their children to reciprocate their love for their own benefit. If you love something you must set it free. If it comes back it is yours. If it doesn’t, it was never yours in the first place. No amount of good resulting from evil justifies the evil actions of others, but God’s risk in allowing freedom was necessary to obtain the highest good in relationships.  Should parents never have children because they may inflict suffering on others or could potentially suffer at the hands of others?

Is God Obsessed With Himself?

God is love but we portray God’s actions as being self-centered. Did God really put us here to remind Him and others how great He is or we can go to Hell? God desired a mutually edifying relationship with those created in His image. Do we have children only for our own pleasure or to bring them joy as well? Are we really less selfish than our Creator? God’s love really is other-directed not self-consumed

One writer said: “God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. You exist for his benefit, his glory, his purpose, and his delight.” Can you imagine respecting a human parent with the same attitude? God’s glorification must be understood in a relational context and not be separated from human benefit, glory, purpose, and delight. Worship, if not mindless slavery, only happens in the context of a relationship.

I Corinthians 10:31 says: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  God’s glory is not self-infatuation. God desires we glorify Him so that all can share in the many blessings resulting from such actions. To love God is to love others to the fullest. Parents, who are unselfish, advise their children to honor them because they have their best interest in mind.

Imagine a world that glorified God in all they did! There would be no evil or suffering caused by others in the world. There would be no physical or sexual abuse in the world. There would be no parents living out their dreams through their children. There would be no bigotry based on the color of your skin or the gender you were born.  There would be no fear of letting children walk to the store, no locking of cars and houses for safety and theft reasons. There would be no selfishness but pursuit of a higher priority, which is honoring or glorifying God in all we do. 

God wanted to share His wonderful creation with others. God will not force His love on others, but He wants as many as possible to experience His love in such a chaotic world. God is not possessive of His glory. “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Tim. 2:14)  What Parent wants to be along in the glory? God is not self-centered, self-absorbed, self-seeking, or egotistical!

How Can One Live Purposefully?

We have goals in life we wish to accomplish, whether they are career or athletic aspirations. It would also be wise to plan for a calling we all face. Every single human being that has ever lived and will be born in the future will die. It is inevitable. Many will ask themselves some basic questions toward the end of their life, should they have the luxury of not dying suddenly without warning. What questions will you ask yourself? I reflect from time to time looking forward:

What have I done with my life?

Have I loved my family and others to the best of my ability?

Followers of Jesus often ask how they can be more like Jesus.  Jesus was the Master at living purposely. Jesus knew how to be with people in the moment and make them feel special. He wasn’t always in a hurry. Jesus didn’t give people a canned evangelistic spiel even though He may never see them again. He just loved others as anyone would want to be loved. Jesus didn’t do this to manipulate or control others. It just was in his DNA to love others period.

It is true Jesus understood as an adult that He only had a few years to live and the plan God had for Him. One may think “if I knew I only had one day or one year to live, I could live in the moment too and do the things that mattered most.” I doubt though any of us would want to swap places with Jesus, knowing the gruesome death He was facing. Let’s just admit it takes a conscious effort to live with the end goal in mind.

I am striving more to “live in the moment relationally.” We can accomplish things without always looking through people. We must fight the urge to always bypass people on the way to our destination. In our technically advanced society it seems we always have meetings to attend, places we must be. We can be aware of when we don’t have a specific schedule. We can plan times where we aren’t always having to be somewhere at a certain time. Sometimes we may be better off without cars and having to walk to our destinations, passing people along the way. Unfortunately, our jobs often don’t depend on working with others in our neighborhoods and communities.

Living in the moment is easier said than done. No sooner after writing this will I walk right out the door past family member without blinking an eye.  I will get in my car alone, park, and walk right pass people into my office. It takes some intentional reminding. Stop yourself looking through people to get to your destination.  Remind yourself constantly to live in the moment.

We all want to make positive contributions, making the world a better place to live. We all want to influence others for good beyond our death. At the end of our lives we won’t be counting our toys. We will be wondering if we loved our family and others in ways we wanted to be loved.

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