For its Bible study, my church is going through The Easter Experience: What If What Happened Then Changes Everything Now? Last night, we did Session 4, “my life has a plan”. The lesson was about how life does not always turn out as we expected: we may have expected a smooth road, but instead we encounter trials and difficulties. The DVD part of the study focused on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Did she seriously expect for things to turn out as they did for Jesus, for Jesus to be mocked, scourged, and crucified?
I have two items.
1. All of the DVD parts of the lessons that we have watched thus far
have been emotionally gut-wrenching, but last night’s session was the
first that made me cry. The DVD cut between Mary when she was a happy
expectant mother with high hopes for her child, to Mary in the crowd as
Pilate presents a scarred Jesus to the audience: the latter Mary had a
smudge on her face, as well as a baffled expression.
I reacted similarly when I first saw The Passion of the Christ.
So much of the film, to be honest, did not have much of an impact on
me. I thought that the violence portrayed against Jesus was gratuitous
and over-the-top. But, when Jesus fell and his mother ran up to comfort
him, I was moved to tears.
2. We were talking about suffering, and the pastor read to us from
the teacher’s manual. What he read was that we may think that a good
God should act in such-and-such a way, but we are not qualified to make
that determination, for we are not good, and we are not God.
I had problems with that statement. I can see the point that God may
work good out of evil or have a good purpose for evil in ways that we
cannot see from our limited perspective. But I question the notion that
we are so sinful that we cannot make determinations about what is good
and what is bad for people. Christianity asks us to make those
determinations in exhorting us to live a moral life, and part of that
moral life is recognizing that we should not do harm to others, but
instead should help them. Jesus did that when he healed people. He did
not just sit back and say that God had some purpose for evil, and that
the evil was actually good in disguise that God was using to benefit
somehow the blind, the lame, and the sick. No, being blind is not good,
and so Jesus healed people of their blindness.
Theodicies are tough. A lot of the time, they strike me as attempts
to justify, downplay, or trivialize evil. I also don’t think that
Christians should rush to present the usual glib theodicies or attempts
to explain why God allows evil. They should take the time to recognize
evil for what it is, as evil.