Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Story of Mankind

We have a story, the story of mankind.  It’s certain though that people often do not agree on that story and there are it seems many different views on just what constitutes our story.  We are all part of this story, and whatever view you may take on it, it’s certain that somewhere in the past we all have a common ancestor, or two; Adam and Eve?  Well, would you believe it?!  To me, I have to say I believe in the story of Genesis, not because I feel I must but because I want to and because perhaps surprisingly it makes the most sense to me.  I understand that what we see in Genesis, a rather sketchy and straightforward account, is from someone or a number of people who did not have the education or the knowledge or the wherewithal to check what they were told, they just listened and passed the tale on to the next generation, and then at some point someone wrote it down.  It is then a highly simplified account of what actually happened; so what did actually happen?


The biblical account is that, when it all boils down to it, we were created by a loving God who specifically created us to be the crowning glory of creation, and in many respects to be the centre of all Creation.  At the same time, we were meant always to be mindful of the fact God gave us life and to keep his laws and to be in awe of His majesty and power and infinite wisdom, mercy and guidance.  It’s easy of course just to say you believe in this or that you believe in that, but most people whatever they believe are always looking for more substantial answers, rather than just accepting what someone has told them.  To me, this always constitutes a problem, because rather than just accepting what someone has to say, certainly about the origins of mankind, I want to find out for myself by going back to the sources, of which of course for me the Bible is the most important.  I must add that whatever you believe, whether life was a purposeful creation or just a glorious accident it is all lost in the mists of time; no one can say for certain what happened simply because they weren’t there!  In the light of this then, what can we glean straightaway from the biblical account of the creation of human beings?


The biblical account of man’s creation is quite simplistic and pretty straightforward; it explains things in an almost childlike manner, even though I believe this is how man was created, pure and simple.  But of course in what it does say, there’s a lot in that account that seems missing.  When were the first man, and woman, created; how many years ago?  Is the Bible story of the beginning of mankind a real literal reality or is it more allegorical, or what?  Obviously something happened, or we just wouldn’t be here.  But what exactly happened, and when?  Will we ever get to the truth of this matter? 


God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild animals and all the creatures that creep along the ground.'  God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.  God blessed them, saying to them, 'Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that move on earth.'  (Genesis 1:26-28 NJB)  It is clear then that we were created for a purpose, even if that purpose at the start was just to have dominion over the rest of creation.  We are not given any other deep meanings about why God did or should create mankind, only the obvious fact that He did.  I think that many of us want to understand what was the purpose of creation and want to know the deeper meaning of creation, and just why God did create a whole universe and then put humanity at the centre of everything.  In my own simple explanation, perhaps like a gardener tending a beautiful garden, God merely created something wonderful and beautiful and put man at the centre of it as the crowning glory of creation.  It’s certain that God created something wonderful even if humanity in general can often take this for granted, or miss the wonder of creation and the wonder of who and what we are.


Where was the Garden of Eden?  Is there an actual place that once was this magnificent and legendary garden?  Is the Garden of Eden more about man’s original state of grace with God than an actual place?  In the Bible it says: ‘Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned.  From the soil, Yahweh God caused to grow every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  A river flowed from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divided to make four streams.  The first is named the Pishon, and this winds all through the land of Havilah where there is gold.  The gold of this country is pure; bdellium and cornelian stone are found there.  The second river is named the Gihon, and this winds all through the land of Cush.  The third river is named the Tigris, and this flows to the east of Ashur. The fourth river is the Euphrates.  Yahweh God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it.  (Genesis 2:8-15 NJB)  This was then paradise for the first man; a garden of his own to look after.  What are we reading and understanding here; an actual garden that existed in a particular geographic location, or is the garden a metaphor for the perfect relationship the first man initially had with God?  Both the River Tigris and Euphrates are rivers that run through modern day Iraq, which in the past was called Mesopotamia and which to ancient historians is now part of the Fertile Crescent.  It is now seen that this part of the world was the original Cradle of Civilisation.  Of course for Bible scholars, this is all very intriguing as this place is also where the first man and the Garden of Eden were supposed to be.  Is there a correlation between very ancient biblical folktales and the reality of mankind’s first flowering of civilisation?  In short, is there some truth to the Genesis account?  It seems that there is.


Then we come to the views of one Charles Darwin, that English gentleman and scientist and explorer.  In the mid-19th century, many people of all walks of life accepted mostly without question that the world, the universe, mankind and everything else was created by an all-powerful Creator.  When Darwin published his famous book ‘On the Origin of Species’, it caused a storm, because it suggested that all life was connected, all species were related to each other and that man himself was simply descended from lesser beings like apes, and that apes had come from mammals, and so on.  There was no middle ground for Darwin, and so the stage was set for people either believing in a world where life just happened and then evolved through a process of natural selection and the survival of the fittest, or you believed in divine intervention and that creation was specifically from the Hand of a benevolent God.  In the modern age, it seems that these two views are the only ones that people, on either side of the argument, really believe in.  And the argument rages on, with both creationists like myself and evolutionists trying to disprove each other’s theory and getting angry and embittered in the process!  Wouldn’t it be good if we could genuinely debate these issues, with people from all sides of the argument, in a cool, level-headed and even friendly manner?  Anyway, Darwin certainly shook things up and his views are popular all over the world.  So, the question is this: are we merely accidents, evolved beings coming from nowhere and ultimately going nowhere, or are we specially created beings with a higher purpose and a reason for being created?  For me, these are the only two views we can consider.  If we are just evolved apes, and there is no God at all, then life becomes bleak and empty.  There are no laws from a loving God and if we are going to disappear into the ether when we die, there is no point to anything after all.  However, if there is a loving Creator behind everything and humans were specifically and uniquely created, then life takes on new meaning.  There is a purpose to life then, and we can have laws from a loving Creator, and God is the ultimate arbiter of justice, mercy, peace, love, compassion and many other things.  I stand with my belief in God, because quite frankly it really does take more faith to believe that everything we see around us is just a glorious accident than being specifically created by God!


Of course, there are things in life that puzzle us and things that even the best scientists and the best theologians don’t seem to really understand.  For instance, why are there so many sub-species within a species?  In other words, why can one dog look completely different from another dog, yet still be a dog?  Likewise why are there so many different looking people, yet they are all human?  Why so many different tomatoes, yet they’re all tomatoes?  My simple view is that all this variation, rather than evolving differently, were already there by God’s specific design.  Yes, I understand that is a simplistic view and may be completely wrong, but it’s the one I hold to at this time.  The human angle is the one that interests me most here; if we are all descended from one common ancestor, an ape or proto-ape, then why do human beings look so different from each other?  We all have different looks within each branch of humanity, and of course we all look very different when one ethnic group is compared to another.  Australian aborigines look very different from Japanese people; Japanese people look very different from Northern Europeans; Northern Europeans look different from Arabs, and so on.  And if we are descended from apes that came out of Africa, then the first humans after apes would be Black Africans.  But there are problems with this.  Firstly, chimpanzees, our supposed closest relatives are actually under their black fur white.  Secondly, if Black people are the first people after apes, how could other people with completely different coloured skins, different facial features and different hair types, to name but a few things, come from Black people?  Surely Black people would simply pro-create other Black people?  We now live in an age where it is seen as the clever and intelligent thing to believe in evolution and that humans are merely advanced apes, and yet I see that even many of those clever scientists and evolutionists won’t or can’t answer glaring anomalies and questions; it is as if they studiously avoid them in fact.  There are Christians too who avoid certain questions.  Perhaps we need to get all these questions out in the open and try with a genuine will and desire to tackle them and even answer them.


If we accept that God did in fact create life, the universe and everything and of course us as human beings, then where does that leave us; what does God’s creation mean?  It means that we are all special as human beings, we have a purpose that goes beyond human struggling and frustrations and of course it gives our lives true meaning.  I can only say that without God I was rudderless, a drifter with no purpose or reason for being.  Now, as a Christian and as a believer in creation, I have a purpose and reason for being; God has imbued me with knowledge and the many gifts He has given me means that I want to serve Him with a whole heart.  No, we can’t see God or hear His voice booming out of a cloud, we can’t literally walk with Him or talk with Him and if we are honest we can’t even really understand who He is and what He is all about; but, when we look at the beauty of nature, or the wings of a beautiful butterfly or the miracle that is childbirth, we are seeing what He has created.  How can anyone really think that the incredibly complex organism that is a human being just happened by accident?  The wonder that is our brain, or the heart pumping blood around our body, or the marvel that is the eye, or the magnificent system of antibodies that protect us from all kinds of viruses and diseases, and so many other things that make the human being such a marvel to behold.  Yes, God puts us at the centre of our own story, we are ultimately the reason for all creation, not ever in a selfish way but simply that we are the crown of creation, the very reason for it.


What is the significance of Cain and Abel?  The first recorded spat between brothers, or something much deeper and that has resonance for all humankind?  The first two offspring of Adam and Eve become the first murderer and the first murder victim, setting the stage for humanity ever after to do what they liked when they liked; they were the children of Adam and Eve who were the first human beings and the first disobedient people on earth; not a good start!  And of course, it seems to go downhill from there!  God could have abandoned us all to our own devices after that, sickened with rebellious humanity; but He doesn’t.  The significance of Cain and Abel is that while one served God with decent worship, the other couldn’t be bothered, got mad and killed his own brother.  Instead of seeking God’s will and mercy, he did his own thing and became the first nomad on earth to escape what he did; but no one can really run from themselves.  Ever since, humanity has largely done what it has wanted to, with the result we live often in a dangerous, chaotic, selfish, unjust and hard world, not based on any real kind of love but based on the most devious and aggressive and who can fight their way to the top; such is life.


 What is Sodom and Gomorrah all about?  According to my information, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were around the Dead Sea which borders both Jordan and Israel.  It seems that as human beings congregated in large urban centres, they began to develop tastes for things that were never in God’s plan for us.  Lot, that famous character in Genesis invites two men, who were in fact angels, to stay the night at his house in Sodom.  They had not gone to bed when the house was surrounded by the townspeople, the men of Sodom both young and old, all the people without exception.  Calling out to Lot they said, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so that we can have intercourse with them.'  Lot came out to them at the door and, having shut the door behind him, said, 'Please, brothers, do not be wicked.  Look, I have two daughters who are virgins. I am ready to send them out to you, for you to treat as you please, but do nothing to these men since they are now under the protection of my roof.'  But they retorted, 'Stand back! This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge. Now we shall treat you worse than them.'  Then they forced Lot back and moved forward to break down the door.  But the men reached out, pulled Lot back into the house with them, and shut the door.  And they dazzled those who were at the door of the house, one and all, with a blinding light, so that they could not find the doorway.  The men said to Lot, 'Have you anyone else here? Your sons, your daughters and all your people in the city, take them away, for we are about to destroy this place, since the outcry to Yahweh against those in it has grown so loud that Yahweh has sent us to destroy it.'  (Genesis 19:4-13 NJB)  It seems that vice in the cities had grown unbearable, and people were out of control.  Perhaps once people’s needs were met, they had to find other diversions for themselves and these ‘diversions’ were extremely sinful to God.  It isn’t just that one or other particular sin is wrong, it is also that when humans sin willingly or wilfully, they are also being disobedient to God’s laws, whether you believe in God or not or whether you are a Christian or not.  Disobedience to God’s laws right from the start caused a rift between mankind and God; even today, when people choose to do what they want without recourse to God, they are being disobedient and so bring sin into the world.  All sin is really just the disobedience of human beings choosing to do it ‘their way’ rather than God’s way in the end.


What does Noah’s story signify?  Many cultures have a flood myth, not just the Israelites from the Bible, so there is perhaps credence to a flood many thousands of years ago.  It does seem however that people just cannot agree on when the flood occurred, whether the flood was a local or worldwide flood and how Noah managed to get two of every species on board the ark, probably to name but a few things that people are unsure of.  Is the story of Noah a folktale with grains of truth therein or is it just a fabrication?  I believe that God allowed a few people to escape a flood but can’t prove it.  Noah’s story signifies God’s anger and disappointment at the human race, how they have turned out, with few if any other than Noah and his family being God-fearing and learning to be godly people.  Whatever the true facts of this folktale, the message is loud and clear: God wants to start again with eight human beings and a load of animals, so that He can populate the earth with righteous people; that’s the plan anyway.


The story of Noah then is a story of a second chance for mankind, a new start, a new beginning, a chance to get right with God again after years of mischief, sinfulness and disobedience.  It is a message that is as old as the hills and as contemporary as mobile phones and the Internet.  It is amazing that old, very old stories can resonate with us today.  Noah refuses to take part in sinfulness, and he is really the only human who walks with God, most of the rest of humanity yet again doing its own thing.  All the while, we are given a choice; do our own thing or serve God with a whole heart.  The same choice Noah faces is the same choice we all face.  We can choose to do God’s will, which will turn out very good for us eventually, or we can choose to do what we want to do, which might seem right at first but which somewhere down the line always leads to confusion, bitterness and further unhappiness, if not downright ruin.

The story of mankind then, whichever way you look at it, is an exciting one and a long story that as yet has no end; we are all part of that story and we all can play a part, our part, in that story.  Some choose to believe in life being an accident, a glorious accident no less, but in the end just an accident and that humans are just the modern process of a long line of evolved apes, mammals, fish that crawled out of the sea and whatever else.  I choose to believe that we were specifically created by a loving God,  a God that is often unknowable and unfathomable, and yet who wants us to know Him intimately and to hold Him in awe and reverence and to stay true to His laws and ways.  I conclude that there is a greater purpose for human beings than we can at first see and comprehend; it’s just that we need to see the world with the eyes of faith and the eyes of a child.  Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran.  When he had reached a certain place, he stopped there for the night, since the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of that place, he made it his pillow and lay down where he was.  He had a dream: there was a ladder, planted on the ground with its top reaching to heaven; and God's angels were going up and down on it.  (Genesis 28:10-12 NJB)  There is certainly far more to this life than generally meets the eye!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Waiting for the Great Leap Forward

We’re always looking for that new place, that new experience, that perfect frame of mind; perhaps it’s better sometimes just to be glad right where we are.  It’s true that, in general, people are never quite satisfied, they always want more, want bigger, want better, want a better TV or a newer faster car or a bigger house, and it seems absolutely certain that rich people can never have enough money.  In all of this, in all of this yearning and wanting to be more than we are, to be richer, to be more fulfilled, are we sometimes missing the very point, the very reason for existence?  Does all our ambition to be wealthy, to have a holiday home in the sun, a swimming pool in the back garden and an expensive car in the drive have a point?  Often those who have attained fame, or great wealth or both don’t necessarily seem to be any happier than anyone else, and those millions upon millions who wish everyday to be rich but don’t attain it seem to be unhappy.  How many people caught up in the rat race really stop and think for even a second whether what they so vainly pursue is really what they want, or is someone else’s idea of what they should want?  How many of us just stop and ask ourselves just what it is we do want out of life?  Let’s get this out of the way straightaway: most people would rather be well off than poor, who wouldn’t, but the reality is that there is more to life than the acquisition of money.  If money really solved our problems then all rich people would be deliriously happy, even people with hundreds of thousands of pounds would be happy, but from where I’m standing the only thing that seems to make very rich people happy, for a time anyway, is the acquiring of more and more money, an endless pointless quest that never seems to end.  Is there another way?   


Break on Through (to the Other Side)

When people find themselves in personal situations they don’t like, be it because they live in a bad rundown area or they are poor or they don’t have employment or because they are depressed, and many other things besides, their desire is to escape and find a new life, far away from the madness and chaos and unhappiness they feel they are in.  My heart writhes within me, the terrors of death come upon me, fear and trembling overwhelm me, and shuddering grips me.  And I say, 'Who will give me wings like a dove, to fly away and find rest?'  How far I would escape, and make a nest in the desert!  (Psalms 55:4-7 NJB)  For a time in my life, I could identify completely with these words.  But even if someone isn’t troubled or confused or depressed, there is a desire in many people to break through to another kind of life, where everything is perfect, where there is no disharmony or trouble and where everything works out for the good.  This sentiment, this yearning, can possibly be expressed in ways as different as there are human beings on the planet.  But there is a desire in me, and has been at various times, to be living a completely different life and a completely different lifestyle, far from my old ways and far from my past, somewhere new, somewhere different and exciting.  I don’t think I am the only one however.


It isn’t just that I wanted to get away from everything in my old life, but that I also wanted a completely different outlook, a completely different mind-set to go with my new life.  We hope and dream for new beginnings, new horizons, new ways of looking at things, a fresh start somewhere else, far from troubles and illnesses, far from cantankerous and troublesome people, far from money worries and little piddling concerns. 


Somewhere Over the Rainbow

We all dream of making it in some way, making it big, perhaps proving to the world we aren’t losers, we do have something going for us and we are worth listening to.  Somewhere over the rainbow lies our dream, forever out of reach, somewhere in our dreams lies our perfect situation, the perfect little cottage far from everywhere in lush green fields and surrounded by little woods and copses and not too far from the coast, but private enough to allow us to live the dream.  All humans have their dreams, we are but one amongst billions dreaming their dreams; perhaps our dreams are all different but our yearnings are only too human.  What lies behind our dreams; an ideal world, unhappiness, greed or something bigger and better?  Are they dreams put there by God or are they just human yearnings?  And, do these dreams make us happy or do they make us unhappy because we feel we might never attain them?  Are they just, after all, pipe dreams?


How do we square our dreams and ambitions with what God has planned for us?  Can they be one and the same thing?  Is there a better life just over the horizon, just beyond the clouds and behind the sunset?  When we live even mundane and sometimes monotonous lives we can dream of better things, better circumstances, better emotional and better spiritual lives.  Somewhere over the rainbow lies a better life, a better relationship with God, better economic circumstances and a life that will be like a dream, only that it will be real.  Can God make our dreams reality?  I certainly think He can.


Exile on Main Street

We are exiles in a foreign country, a strange world, a world that is hostile to love and justice, that is hostile to concern for other people.  Those who are called by God to live apart from most other people, yet at the same time live amongst other people, are pulled in different directions.  We are gladiators in the arena, fighting our corner and the wild beasts of the world, knowing no peace and knowing we are not children of this world but children of the next world.  We are exiles, waiting to come home, living in Babylon, living in what appears to be sophistication and the height of luxury, but what in the end is only temporal and illusory, a delusion that will end when God stops dreaming and awakes, and we awake with Him, to a new and glorious life.  At the same time, though we prepare for our true home, we can at least get comfortable in this world and find happiness and peace here on earth.


In the film ‘Noah’s Ark’, starring Jon Voight and Mary Steenburgen amongst others, Noah’s friend Lot asks Him ‘How did you find this God?’  Noah answers, quickly but quietly and succinctly ‘I don’t know.’  If only we were all as honest as this, and instead of proclaiming our vast intelligence and superior knowledge, we just replied when we don’t know: ‘I don’t know!’  How much better and simpler would all human relations and relationships be if we were all so honest!?  In truth, if anyone is honest, any Christian that is, how can we understand God’s pull and influence on our lives, and how do we really know how He enters our lives, in what way and perhaps the most vexing question of all; why?

So we are exiles, in a foreign land, a strange world, but we have a mighty God who lights our way and will lead us to the Promised Land, the place we’ve been looking for all our lives.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

God’s Word for Us

I feel I’ve made a mess of my life, a colossal mess of my life; but all the while I feel God saying ‘don’t worry, everything will be alright.’  Wishful thinking; who can say?


Some people are born lucky it seems, or born privileged with money and connections; they go to the right school, know the right people, have the right accent, live in the nicest areas, enjoy the best of what life has to offer and seem to go from one pleasant experience after another and find themselves in good careers.  Some of us are not so lucky; we struggle, we find ourselves depressed, we don’t have money or connections, we don’t it seems really count for much, in worldly terms anyway.  What is God’s word for us?


We all dream of making it big or winning the lottery or making our mark and proving to the world that we were right after all, and perhaps they were wrong to dismiss us or hate us or to disregard us as nobodies.  It is my belief that God does not regard the well connected, the powerful and the wealthy any more than He regards the lowly, the marginalised and the poor.  Unfortunately religion, that sort of watered-down variety that filters through the media and is the traditional way Christianity is portrayed even by some Christians, seems often to be about the rich, the powerful and the high-born, those who in worldly terms seem to matter.  What is God’s answer to this?


A relationship with God is something that is beyond what we can really understand and yet at the same time He wants us to feel comfortable with Him, to enjoy His presence and quite simply to be His best mate!  It’s far less about religion and far more about a lived reality; if you think Christians only really operate on one day of the week, well you couldn’t be more wrong!  Christianity is a seven day a week reality, and something that transcends the everyday; yet God is the God of the mundane and the ordinary as much as He is the God of the exotic and the extraordinary; as human beings we are both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.


Does God only call the important, the rich and the well-connected, is He really a God that only shows concern and respect for the high-born and those deemed important?  Perhaps He doesn’t; Paul specifically writes: ‘Consider, brothers, how you were called; not many of you are wise by human standards, not many influential, not many from noble families.  No, God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong, those who by human standards are common and contemptible -- indeed those who count for nothing -- to reduce to nothing all those that do count for something, so that no human being might feel boastful before God.  (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NJB)  We need to remember this when we see Christianity as something the rich and powerful, the seemingly important and those with high social status embrace; God doesn’t pay more respect to them than He does to ordinary people, but religion at one time like many things in life, was seen to be more about the ‘great and the good’ than it was about the poorer or less connected sort of person.  This is God’s word for us, that we all count, whether we are from a council estate or a landed estate, whether we are from the projects or whether we live in a house that cost ten million dollars; God is about equality and fairness and justice, when the world is about injustice, unfairness, prejudice of all kinds and often rampant exploitation.  I am not exaggerating here, I am merely being truthful and honest.  In poorer countries these things are only too obvious, and in richer countries these things exist to a degree but there is a subtlety to them.  Having grown up in relative poverty myself, I can talk passionately and dispassionately about poverty and injustice; I even think that the organised churches like Anglicanism and Catholicism don’t really challenge these things and rarely bring them up in any lasting or meaningful way.  Sometimes I think that some organised Christianity can itself be the problem; how can a rich organisation, one that owns vast wealth in the form of money, land, property and works of art, amongst no doubt many other things, really understand or side with the poor?  John writes: ‘My command to you is to love one another.  If the world hates you, you must realise that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice of you has drawn you out of the world, that is why the world hates you.  (John 15:17-19 NJB)  Do humans really love each other?  If we did, if we really did, wouldn’t there be less poverty, less division, less hypocrisy and double-standards and certainly less division between the rich and the poor?  I certainly think there would at any rate.


So, religion can be one thing, and God thankfully is something usually very different.  How did something so profound, life-enhancing and amazing become watered-down religion anyway?  I have a thing about this I admit, but not as yet being a churchgoer but at the same time being a dyed-in-the-wool Christian, I feel that much that passes for Christianity, the traditional variety, where you go to a church on Sunday morning, sing a few hymns, say hello to the priest or vicar, just isn’t appealing to people, people like me who have a thirst and hunger for God but feel put off by traditional Christianity and worship.  Is Sunday churchgoing all there is to contemporary Christianity anyway?  Isaiah writes: ‘Thus says Yahweh: With heaven my throne and earth my footstool, what house could you build me, what place for me to rest, when all these things were made by me and all belong to me? - declares Yahweh. But my eyes are drawn to the person of humbled and contrite spirit, who trembles at my word.  (Isaiah 66:1-2 NJB)  So in a few telling sentences, we have God’s answer to religion-it isn’t just about churches and rituals and human traditions, it is about a real relationship with a real living God who wants from us awe, respect and a humble and contrite spirit.  This seems far less about religion, any religion, and much more a reality, a God-centred reality.


What is God’s word for us?  God’s word for us is peace, security, happiness, purpose, meaning, equality, justice and many other good things that all humans need and cry out for.  I hope I have made my point, that Christianity lived out on a daily and on-going basis and then religion, can be two very different things.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A Letter to God

Dear God,

                  What is my purpose for being created and what is my purpose for existing?  Sometimes I feel OK, just OK, and other times I feel lousy and rotten; sometimes I know why, and other times I don’t know why.  Some days are good; they pass pleasantly and I feel good.  Other days are bad and they pass slowly, and I am really enduring them.


If you are a good God, why do you allow suffering?  What is the purpose of suffering?  Does it refine human beings to fulfil their potential, or does it focus people on you and your omnipotence?  Is suffering merely the result of a fallen and sinful world, and a fallen Creation?  What should we do when we suffer?  Cry out in despair?  Grit our teeth and bare it, or turn our faces to you?


How can we love our enemies, O Lord, when sometimes we have a problem with our families and friends?  Should we really turn the other cheek when someone strikes, or more likely when someone says something nasty or unpleasant about us?  Doesn’t this make us seem weak, when we want to be strong?  How does a city boy growing up around all kinds of macho men really turn the other cheek anyway?  It’s easy, Lord, to say something after all but not so easy to do it.


Why Lord when there is abundance of resources of every kind in the world do so many people go without, even to the point of being half starved and living ever in want?  What is your answer to such harsh realities?  Why do bad people prosper, and good and decent people go to the wall?  Why in this world do the seeming wicked and unjust thrive, whilst people who try with all their hearts to live as you command them, suffer all kinds of distress and calumnies, and live in often reduced circumstances of some kind?  What is your purpose for those who bend their ears to your discipline, Lord?


Is it religious robots you want O Lord, people just fulfilling rituals blindly, not knowing why, or do you want individuals who choose you from their hearts, doing right and knowing why they do right?  Are you to be found in churches, or cathedrals O Lord, or is the vast universe itself too small to contain you? 


What is the purpose for Creation, O Lord, and why did you create everything anyway?  Were we created for a purpose, and if so what is that purpose?  Isn’t one of our purposes just to be happy and content and being grateful for all the good things you created?


When we lose sight of you and we really despair, what are we meant to do; hang onto your words and just be obedient, or what?  I know you forgive sins Lord, but even so why do I feel so much guilt at the multitude of sins I committed not so long ago?  When will I feel pure and when will you forgive my sins Lord? 


Lord, you punish wickedness, but what about all those people not particularly wicked just getting on with their lives; what about them?


Lord, some people are straightforward, they can do something all their lives, they never question, they fit in and do what they’re told.  What about those who don’t seem to fit in, the square pegs in round holes, the quiet, the mysterious, those who want to walk solitary and alone on hilltops, those who think, those who question everything, those who are not satisfied; what about us?


Lord, if we question, if we ask you things that are not easy to understand or fathom out, if we are annoying in our inquisitive and questioning nature, aren’t these characteristics in us placed there by you after all?  Do we have that spark of God in us, that means we know what is right, even though time and time again we don’t do it?  Why, when we know what is right and just, do we struggle even just to live half-decent lives?  Is this our lot Lord, to live half-lives, always in the shadows, not knowing when things will get better, but hoping day after day that they will?


If you are a God who loves goodness and mercy O Lord, why is the world filled with suffering and hurting people, why are there so many bad things in the world, and why does evil often triumph over simple good?  Why do the greedy and selfish prosper, and the good and the kind vanish like early morning mist?  What is your answer O Lord?


Lord, if you are the Creator of everyone and everything, why did you pick a particular tribe to be your people?  Why do you pick some and not others?  Why me, O Lord?



A Christian.