Sunday, October 18, 2009

now I know in part, then I shall know fully

A very ponderous old man at my church stood up yesterday and gave us a rendition of a little poem which I'm not going to try and reproduce here, but went something along the lines of this: If Jesus came to visit your house, would you try and hide all the magazines, TV guides, books lying around and make it look like your Bible had pride of place?

Okay, so I get what he's trying to say, but all I could think of was how excited I would be to see Jesus.

Monday, October 12, 2009

God and suffering

What heartbreaking news. Two-year-old Aisling Symes. One week missing. One child's body found tonight in a gutter in West Auckland.

Last week, the tsunami in Samoa. Earthquakes in Indonesia. Floods in the Philippines. Et cetera.

In September, me, my friend, visiting Auschwitz. It happened a long time ago but time does not diminish the horror of what happened.

Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!

Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted.

Like a slug melting away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child, may they not see the sun.

It's times like these that I am thankful for a God who is just and who will punish the evil.

But it's times like these that I feel I have to justify the title of my blog. How can a God who lets these things happen possibly be nice? The Psalm I quoted; why doesn't God always answer this prayer? And I'm never going to have a definitive answer for this.

I will be thinking about this over the next while and I will try to say something that does not sound incredibly trite and easy. At the same time I will not deny that I feel, overwhelmingly, that God is GOOD.

Monday, October 05, 2009

turning the other cheek

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well." Matthew 5:38-40

Sometimes I wonder if we, as a Church, really take Jesus seriously. Or if we really want to implement his ideas in our lives.

I've had a lot of conversations lately that involved situations I was faced with, or other Christian people were faced with, which centered around a "difficult" or "dishonest" person who was trying to take advantage of me or them, sometimes in very small and insignificant ways, sometimes in much more significant ways. And I mentioned this principle, spoken from the very mouth of Jesus, as an example of how, perhaps, we should behave.

These are some of the responses that have followed:

- Jesus didn't mean we have to become doormats.

- It's not "loving" to give way to people all the time, because they'll just learn to rely on people always doing that for them.

- Jesus was talking about "evil people", not every-day relationships.

In response, I would acknowledge the grain of truth in these arguments. We would not, for example, give our children everything they ever asked us for, because it is definitely not loving to allow them to grow up spoiled and greedy.

But I wonder if we are in danger of explaining Jesus' words away entirely, treating the Sermon on the Mount as an amazing example of theological radicalism, and removing the need for it to be applied to our lives. We should not deceive ourselves - they are radical teachings - and Jesus meant every word. I don't think any of us will ever be able to live up to them, but shouldn't we at least acknowledge the desirability of this?