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Friday 1 July 2005

Valley - screenshot Morrowind

Pic of the day: If I should walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I'd be pretty creeped out, truth to tell. (Luckily this screenshot is only from Morrowind, where you can always reload if worst comes to worst. Don't I wish it was like that here...)

Bad things, good people?

This is written from a Christian perspective. I guess that's a warning, of sorts. But I doubt you have heard the local preacher say things like this...

One problem that has long confounded religious philosophers: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" There is even a book written about it, which I haven't read. I have however read the New Testament, the holy book of Christianity. And according to that, the answer is: "Because they don't love God."

Harsh! But here's the quote: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8, v28, New International Version of the Bible.) There are various different versions of this verse. A particularly clear one from the New Living Translation: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

The reason why bad things happen to me and they do occasionally is that I am more concerned about the "good" and "bad" of my body-self than I am about what is good or bad according to God's purpose.

Verse 29: "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters." Jesus died on a wooden implement of torture and humiliation. Was this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it was certainly not a nice thing to have happen to one. But it was a good thing for all the people who felt that Jesus took their punishment on himself so they could get a new chance. According to God's purpose it was a good thing, so that Jesus could have brothers and sisters ... a new type of human, a second genesis. Nor was the cross the first "bad thing" that happened to him. He was familiar with pain and sickness, he was hungry and he did not have anything to rest his head on at various times. Bad things happened to an exceedingly good person, because it was God's purpose that he become like us, in the hope that some of us could become like him. That was God's purpose.

Being healthy, having all our needs fulfilled, having fun together with friends ... these are all good things, but sometimes they don't concur with God's purpose. If it were up to me, the two things would always be aligned, of course. But this is because I am utterly absorbed in my small body-self and don't have a clue about what God really wants. Well, rather I see it from a safe distance. Because what I always wanted in my life was knowledge and insight. And I prayed to God for that, and God granted to me a measure of knowledge and insight that still has me awed. But like Moses, I see the Promised Land from a mountain top near the border, and it seems I will never enter it myself. As is written about that episode: Only your children will enter it, those about whom you said: They will die in the desert.

If I had real Christ-consciousness (not the cheap stuff some people peddle on the Net), then I would know whenever what God's purpose was things happened. And following it, no bad thing would ever happen to me, only at worst to my body. And bodies are temporary. They may be lost, but can be regained. "I have been granted to give my life and to take it back" said Jesus on one occasion. (He did not actually do that, though ... when death was almost upon him, he chose instead to give his spirit to the Father, letting that one choose whether or not to give him life again. This was probably Jesus' real last temptation: To take his life back rather than trusting the Father who had left him. To this day, lots of people think he actually did it himself, despite the insistence of the rest of the New Testament.)

You may argue that this definition of "good" and "bad" makes God into Fate or Tao, an impersonal force that arranges history for some purpose in which we are only wheels in the machine or ants under the shoes. But notice that all this happens for the good of those who love God. Thus if you are really sure that you love God, then presumably you believe too that all things happen for your best, even if they hurt at the moment. I personally may say that I would wish it was like that to me, but the reason why I wish it is of course that I don't wish suffering and fear to touch my heart. Thus I am still centered on my own small self and just digging myself deeper.

It all makes sense to me now, from the top of the mountain. But when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear and confusion still blind my sight, and even the memories pale. But perhaps the children, even of those who rebelled, may still come in to be rested in the Promised Land. And perhaps an angel will still quarrel with the devil about Moses' body. (Oblique Biblical references, you'll know them if you ever chose this way.)

So why does bad things happen to good people? Because they are still people, still human. That said, they can be excellent company. I have known many such. But as Jesus said about his friend John: "The least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than him." Because they are the current purpose of creation. And after that, who knows what will happen next? As one of those insiders said: "Now we are God's children, and it is not yet revealed what we shall become." Eternity has barely even begun.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Evil is not the only danger
Two years ago: More excuses
Three years ago: Doing something
Four years ago: Sex and the law
Five years ago: Risks and fears
Six years ago: Predicting

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