Posts Tagged ‘suffering

04
Aug
09

Why Must We Go Through This?

A common complaint against God is that if He exists, why would he make us go through all the crap that occurs on Earth before welcoming us into His embrace? Sickness, suffering, woes, violence, and so many more nasties about in life. Sure, there are many good things, too, but no one really pays attention to those or thanks God for them when they can simply focus on the bad stuff and blame him.

OK, sorry…side rant for a moment there.

But there is a legitimate question in there. What is the purpose of being here, if our goal is to be there (i.e. Heaven) for eternity?

Well, first, I highly doubt our eternity is going to be spent lounging around the afterlife or doing nothing but bowing down in front of God all the time. Seems like we’d have something a bit more varied and productive to do than the same ole, same ole forever.

So that means we’ll likely have purpose. Responsibility. And, dare I say, power.

Remember, angels have power. A bunch of them waged war against Heaven. And yet they are servants to us, the children of God. They are, in the end, lesser than humans on the heirarchical scale. Therefore, it is safe to say that we will be potentially far more dangerous to creation and to Heaven than they ever were or ever will be.

Given that, I would kind of expect to be put through some paces. I would, in fact, expect that the afterlife is not simply a destination but a continuing journey and series of tests and opportunities for growth itself.

You don’t toss a set of keys to your kid the moment his or her feet can reach the pedals and say, “Take it for a ride.”

Likewise, I don’t think God is going to simply open the doors to paradise, and reveal deep secrets of creation itself, to just everyone.

This post is a bit of a ramble, I know, but I haven’t really coalesced these thoughts firmly. It’s more of a mental exercise I’m going through. But I do think I may be on to something with it.

08
May
09

For the Hell of It

galaxy-blueSo it was just a couple days ago I posted on My Black and Secret Heart, and as I noticed in the comments, and as I’ve encountered before, there is a point of view that the idea of Hell is incompatible with the idea of a loving God.

I would disagree. In part because I think we attach too much tradition and perhaps incorrect assumptions about Hell. Really, it isn’t described in detail in the Bible. Its role isn’t fully explained. It doesn’t even seem to be permanent, as it apparently gets tossed in the Lake of Fire eventually. And the Lake of Fire, for that matter, has to be at least somewhat allegorical, because I doubt that God is literally maintaining a huge lake of flames in which to toss everything.

Now, one might argue: If Hell isn’t a punishment for not following God’s rules, then why doesn’t the Bible tell us that explicitly? Well, note that the New Testament talks much about love and a relationship with God, whereas the Old Testament treats the relationship more as a master/servant or lord/subject model. And yet, God didn’t start out in an authoritarian mode with Adam. What we fail to see is that God had to snap us to attention when we broke trust, and He had to call attention to the error of our ways, and He had to bring about a way to heal the damage. It would be nice to think that the New Testament would just say, “Hell isn’t about punishment; it’s about the choice between growing and being part of God’s plans, or separating yourselves from those plans because you don’t like them.”

But you know what? That would have been kind of a hard and huge transition for the Jews of the time, or even the Gentiles. I think we are expected to have grown in our spiritual outlook and divine God’s intent to bring us into a family mode. The New Testament was written in a time of transition from the old convenant to the new convenant.

So, with that notion in mind, I’m not so sure Hell is about suffering or punishment. It may be. But I think we shouldn’t assume that. I do think that at the very least, it is separation from God, for either a very long time or forever. Again, I couldn’t say for sure either way.

But what if Hell isn’t about making us pay for our sins but about protecting creation itself? Bear with me here, as I make a slight aside.

If you haven’t seen the movie Defending Your Life, I highly recommend that you do. It’s a brilliant romantic comedy, in my opinion, and poses some interesting theological questions in the process of tickling the funny bone. The basic premise is that when we die on Earth, we go to Judgment City, where we basically stand trial to prove we have overcome our fears in life. If you prove that, you move on to the next intellectual/spiritual plane and evolve to the next level. If not, you get reincarnated to do it all over again.

Albert Brooks, sitting in the office of his Judgment City defender, is confused about all this. His defender explains that the universe is like a big machine and people are the cogs. The universe doesn’t want faulty parts, so people get sent back until they get it right. Appalled to find out just how many times he’s been sent back already through the ages, Albert Brooks’ character asks, basically, “So if I don’t prove I’m over my fears, I just get sent back over and over and over again?” To which his defender responds, “No. Eventually the universe will just throw you out.”

My point?

God doesn’t need or want people who are broken and want to stay broken. He doesn’t need people who are going to be contrary to his purpose for creation.

Let’s remember, for a moment, that we are “created in God’s image.” The angels were not. So what sets us apart from them in Heaven? I suspect it’s the fact that we have the power and potential to access and alter creation in much the same way that God can. We are far from God’s level, but imagine what we each could become, given eternity in which to develop.

Imagine what damage could be wreaked by selfish or hopeless people with even a smattering of such power.

What if the point of Heaven vs. Hell is the decision as to whether you want to move on and evolve or whether you don’t give a damn. If you don’t want to move on, you won’t. And that, I believe, is when you go to Hell.

Do you get a chance to rethink? I don’t know. Maybe in that decision you are basically saying, “Just throw me out, because I don’t want to change or grow.” Maybe you are simply erased at that point; a faulty part that had to be thrown away. Or maybe you are placed somewhere you can’t do any harm, but can continue in that static existence that you won’t shrug off.

God isn’t trying to keep people out of Heaven, but I do think He wants to ensure that those who go there really want to be there, and to be there for the right reasons.

Hell of a thought, eh?

21
Jul
08

Pain or Suffering?

I know the usual phrase is “pain and suffering,” but I’m going to challenge all of you with the title of today’s post to shed that notion. To embrace the idea that they don’t have to go together and you can make a choice. I would further put forth to you that you while you should realize that you are going to experience pain that you purposefully try to steer clear of suffering. Jesus promised us that we would, as his followers, experience tribulations (pain), but he died and suffered so that we wouldn’t have to—so that we can turn to God and tap into the Holy Spirit to get through pain and bypass (or at least drastically shorten) the suffering part of things.

I was inspired to talk about this today when I saw a statement on a Christian issues-oriented blog by a commenter that went like this:

In life pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

Now, ain’t that a kicker? I’ve heard a lot of aphorisms before, but never that one. I did some Google searching and it seems it’s a Zen and Buddhist philosophical statement. I found a lot of stuff related to that phrase, but here are a few things that expound upon it a bit: a sermon here from a Unitarian-Universalist church, a blog post here, and a post at a grief discussion group here.

Let it never be said that I don’t tap into non-biblical sources for my inspiration. Zen Buddhist folks can teach a lot about life and how we view it. The key is to remember that we have another life beyond this one and we have to tie the two together. This aphorism about pain vs. suffering seems key to me in understanding what kind of bullet Jesus took for us and how he would want us to conduct our lives when the defecation hits the rotary oscillation device.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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