False Comforts

I was going to try to write a whole post on various cliches we Christians like to throw about in times of trouble, things we like to say to offer comfort and hope to people when we can't figure out what really needs to be said, if anything.

But I'm going to just focus on one. It usually goes something like this:

"Wow, that's amazing that (so-and-so) survived (such-and-such)! God must really have a special plan for that person!"

I'm sure you've come across this at some point in your life (whether you were the one speaking it or receiving it.) But today, I want to just break this down for you, piece by piece. Let's look at what this is actually saying.

First, I'll give you the context behind this post. Somebody on facebook had posted something about a little girl who had survived the Sandy Hook shooting by playing dead. As I was scrolling down through the comments, the following two struck me:

"That child has purpose, a calling on her life."

"How sad is that, but God had a plan for that little girl!"

At first, these seem like deep, powerful statements that pay tribute to God's saving grace. But if we look at them more closely, really analyze what they are saying, we can see that they are actually saying that mankind has no free will and that God plays our lives like a giant chess game.

So, let us talk about what these are ACTUALLY saying. 

To say that a lone survivor of this horrible tragedy "has purpose," a "calling on her life," and that "God had a plan" for her, is inadvertently saying that those who did not survive did not have a calling on their lives, or that they were somehow not part of God's plan. This kind of statement basically tells the families of the other survivors, "Your family member wasn't important enough to God for Him to save."

This is a TERRIBLE thing to say. Mainly because it is absolutely not true.

God's "plans" for humans have never included death. In the beginning, when the world was perfect, the way God intended it, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He was present, here, with his creation. That's how it was supposed to always be. And before the Fall (before sin entered the world), THERE WAS NO DEATH. Why would there be no death? Well, if we were all perfect, then there was no reason to die. Death came about as a result of human decision to defy God. In essence, we brought death upon ourselves. (Well, Adam and Eve did. I mean, I certainly wasn't around six or seven or however many thousand years ago. Maybe you were. But anyway. I digress.) That first act of human decision had two very distinct results: 

     1. We could no longer live forever. I mean, we were messed up.
     2. We now had the ability to always choose between right and wrong and understand our decisions.

This whole "free will" thing that Christians talk about all the time--it doesn't just affect the person making the decision. It affects other people as well. Possibly many people. There's that whole domino-effect idea, where one decision will turn into another and another and another. Or, you know, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, if you will. But with fewer movies and more real-life events.

So, a decision you make today, as inconsequential as it may seem, may affect some person you have never met--and may never meet--two years from now.

The whole point of that discussion is this: To say that God's plan was to save one person would mean that His plan was also that 26 other people would die. And not only that, but that His plan was for Adam Lanza to go into that school with guns and open fire on innocent little children. 

Let me make this clear: God did not want Adam Lanza to shoot anyone. Ever. God does not want bad things to happen. Ever. He does not sit at some judge's bench in the sky with a giant gavel commanding one person to die because someone else needs to learn a lesson, or deciding that some person has had a full enough life and so it's "their time to go."

God is the father standing next to the closed coffin, weeping with his fists clenched on the cold, hard wood, weeping because he doesn't understand why this happened to his child, why this happened to anyone's child. Weeping because he doesn't understand how someone can make the decision to take guns into a school and kill children, for God's sake.

God is the mother standing outside the school watching her blood-covered daughter run to her and thinking, "My God, she's alive! My baby is alive!" And then feeling a pain in her heart that will never quite leave her, because she has friends standing there with her who will never see their babies again.

God is the pastor, the friend, the counselor, trying to bring comfort and peace to those grieving their losses, holding them and weeping with them quietly, because there is nothing to say, nothing that can ever really answer the questions. 

But God is NOT the person on a message board, or in the church, or at work, saying that there must be a purpose for that lone survivor's life. 

Because the thing is, there is a purpose for every life.

Those twenty children, the six adults, and yes, even Adam Lanza--all of them had a purpose for their lives, whether that purpose had yet been realized or not. All of them were precious in God's eyes. Every single one of them. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

So please don't go around talking about God's plan for this one and His purpose for that one, unless you are going to also talk about the beautiful, purposeful, important lives that were sadly cut short. Not by God's will. But by the decision of a human being. 

If you can't think before you speak, then just stay silent. It's okay to not have answers. And it's okay to not know what to say. I promise. 



The Immensity of God

Lately, I've just been really feeling the fact that we have no clue as to the immensity of God. I think in the modern church, we've gotten comfortable with the idea that we understand God - I mean, He took human form in Jesus, so, everything that Jesus is/was, is all that God is, because it's what we could see. But I think that God only made part of Himself understandable, relatable, and that's the part that became Jesus.

But God is so much bigger, even bigger than Jesus.

And I think that's where the church gets stuck.

Because we tend to see Jesus as the end product of our search: if you have Jesus, you have everything you need.

But if we look closely, Jesus himself told us otherwise.

He is our conduit to the Father God: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)

God is greater than Jesus: "...If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." (John 14:28b)

The whole point of Jesus coming was to reunite us with God. The Israelites had a terrible history of coming to God, worshiping Him wholeheartedly, and then turning away to idols. God LOVED them so much - loved all of humankind so much - that He decided the only way He could be close to us, the way He really desired, was if He sacrificed Himself. And so He placed a part of Himself into the person of Jesus and did just that - God sacrificed Himself to be with us.

Jesus said He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). He became the fulfillment of all the laws of cleanliness, sacrifice, and offerings that we could never live up to - all the laws that God established because He is holy and we fell from His presence - so that we could easily be reconnected with God Himself. That was why Jesus came - to tear down the walls that we humans had put up between ourselves and God - because GOD wanted to be with us.

Is Jesus important, then?

Absolutely.

Without Him, we would not be able to connect with God.

But let us not miss the point of His coming. We have turned Jesus into the only God - almost all of our focus ends up on Him.

But He came to be our connecting point to God, who Jesus Himself claims is so much greater than He is.

I think that, by boxing God into the person of Jesus - essentially limiting God's immensity to what we know of the person of Jesus - we are limiting our relationship with God, and we are missing out on a whole lot of awesomeness.

Even in the Old Testament, David and others cried out to know God, longing for Him, for His presence ("As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God." Psalm 42:1). At that time, they didn't have the law automatically fulfilled for them. There was a process to go through to be able to connect with God, and the average person couldn't do it directly, but had to go through a priest.

Jesus came so that we no longer have to jump through hoops to get to God. He came because God is, and was, and always has been, our ultimate goal.

Misunderstood

It's been just over two years since I made the decision to be vegetarian. Since then, I've evolved quite a bit in my approach. Some changes have been for the better, some for the worse. But I'm still vegetarian. And most importantly, I am a vegetarian who is also a Christian.

I see no reason why the two can't - shouldn't - go together. But I have, over the past two years, gotten many raised eyebrows, scornful looks, or even condescending chuckles from fellow Christians, telling me either I won't last as a vegetarian, or some variety of "why the heck would you give up meat? God allowed it, so we should eat it."

To those people who would scorn the duality of Christianity and vegetarianism, I have several things to say:

1. Yes, I understand. God did allow humans to eat meat. He did not, however, command it. He made this provision for food in a time when there was little vegetation on the planet (after the flood). And when Peter has his dream about the clean and unclean animals, this is referring to the Jews and Gentiles, and how, in Christ, there is no longer a difference.

2. Yes, I know. Jesus ate fish. He probably ate lamb as well, if he was a good Hebrew boy and celebrated Passover. But He was the ultimate Passover lamb, and He taught compassion, even to "the least of these." In His death and resurrection, animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin were no longer required, and, I think, no longer desired. Jesus paid it all.

3. Back in the day (you know, when Jesus was around in physical form), the horrible conditions in which animals are brutalized, tortured, experimented on, and killed nowadays did not exist. They didn't hang cows up by the ankles back then and slit their throats to let them bleed out slowly. They didn't drug their animals with hormones to make them grow faster so they'd produce more meat so the owners could make more money. And they didn't have to dose them up with antibiotics because the conditions in which the animals were kept were so terrible that diseases were rampant. No, that's come about in recent times. And I really don't think, judging from His teachings, that Jesus is too pleased with these goings-on.

4. As a fellow Christian, you should understand and be supportive of the fact that God led me to my choice to be vegetarian. Just like He led you to your decision to be a musician/teacher/evangelist/missionary/businessman/fill-in-the-blank. For me, it is a calling. And I know now that it is a lifelong calling. Please don't put me down for following God's will.

I think I've ranted enough for now. I don't intend for this blog to be a big huge rant. I do intend to post positive things, such as research I find that helps me on my journey, as well as news articles about what's going on in the world, how vegetarianism can help feed the hungry around the globe, and humane animal treatment.