Saturday, March 10, 2007

Whose Fault Is It?


“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”"

When we are surrounded by difficulties, we often struggle with placing blame for our calamities at the feet of some karmic consequence, or the negative response of sowing the bad seeds of bad intentions. Often we blame our sinful condition, or our heritage for our bad luck in life. Jesus appears to negate the belief that everything negative we experience is somehow tied to something wrong within us.

Over a milennia after the Book of Job was written, and the disciples still hadn’t learned it’s lessons of not automatically placing blame upon the victims of calamity.

I spoke with an old friend. Well, we actually came to the conclusion that I considered him in more friendly terms that he thought of me during this conversation. Although we had not spoken in a long, long time, and he was speaking with me for the first time since hearing of the death of Bev's mom, and an impending kidney transplant for our only son, and our excommuncation, he preceded to speak mostly about the troubles we had with the denomination, and tell stories of how God uses the people who abuse us to show us lessons about how we are just like the abusers we face. God brings these things upon us to teach us these lessons and bring us to repentance.

I could not help but think that this was so much like the false assumptions of Job's friends, and Jesus' disciples. The teaching that says we bring all our own calamities upon ourselves, or that we God uses people who are dishonest to show us that we are dishonest, and those who are abusive to show us that we are abusive seems to be a popular variation of an old heresy - so methinks.

What do you think?

24 comments:

Agent B said...

I've been saying this for a few years.

Believers of charismatic/pentecostal persuasion follow the "cause & effect" route. If something in your life is miserable, then you did something in the past to "cause" this. It's a perverted version of reaping & sowing.

But like you said...Job throws a huge wrench into "cause & effect" mentality.

Melissa said...

Doesn't that line of thinking only perpetuate the law and not grace? as if you could try harder to escape the calamity? Isn't the whole idea of difficulties in life to bring us to the point where we recognize the need to cling harder to God?

Not to throw a wrench in the conversation...but how does demonic activity fit into this discussion of blame? What about the idea of generational sin?

Mike/Cern said...

Yeah, it sounds like he was talking a load of cow manure. I think there ARE times in our lives when stuff happens for us to learn from. That negative stuff happens so we see the negative stuff in ourselves is daft. Sure, if there IS that negative stuff in ourselves then it is a marvelous opportunity for self reflection (although, the truth is that when bad stuff happens we can be in such a tailspin that self reflection is the last thing we can contemplate, even if we should). But it is an over simplification to suggest that bad stuff happening to you is to show bad stuff within you. An alternative lesson could be that you actually have the strength to move beyond that bad stuff. Or it could be that what you've got needs to be nurtured in a different environment. It could simply be that bad stuff is happening because bad stuff happens and there are folks who are quite content to let it happen because it is happening to someone else, not to them.

I see this kind of thing in the same league as 'Your relative got sick because you didn't pray hard enough'. *insert extreme expletive* If the deity of your choosing plans on doing something about the issue then they will do so. There's no praying hard enough. There's no 'you brought this on yourself'. There's no 'It happened because there is something wrong with you that you need to look at'.

At the end of it all, you just have to feel sorry for the guy, living such a formulaic life. Life doesn't work to a formula.

BB

Mike

Anonymous said...

I think sometimes hard times come cos of bad choices, but often shit just happens. There are no formulas. Some seasons are amazing, some are hard. It's just life.

I don't see God as the 'author' of bad things in the sense that he actually somehow dishes them out. I do believe that he journeys with us in it all, and whoever's fault it is or isnt, that he's faithful to work redemption.

Over simplyfing painful experiences is not helpful.. 'we can't blame God so it must be a,b,c'. I don't get how people say 'God is a good father' and in the next breath, will start speaking of how he took away their kid for some higher spiritual purpose etc etc. Proper sad.
:( I'd prefer to have no answers and learn through the challenges of life than to attribute all the crap to God.

My experience is that God's love and kindness leads me to changes of heart. Transformation from the inside out, rather than outwardly conforming because of fear, religion etc.
Peace
Caz

Webb Kline said...

Right now I am holding up in prayer a mom whose 25 year old son recently went through a heart transplant and is hanging on to life by a thread.

Right now I am praying for one of my best friends and one of his daughters who, at 24, is fighting Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the prognosis is not good. This after his wife of 30 years left him for another woman.

Right now I am also lifting up a single mom who has 3 children--2 of them are fighting cancer.

The list goes on and on.

Has God allowed these innocent people to suffer so that their parents can learn some lesson? Give me a break. These things happened because we live in a world where Jesus warned us we would have troubles. It is a world filled with sin, disease, hatred, violence and death. It is also a world which God is in the process of redeeming a people out of if they only choose to receive it.

Choice. That's what it comes down to. We are free to choose whether we use our struggles to make us more like Jesus or to allow those same struggles to destroy us as we, in turn, destroy others.

Pain, sorrow, heartache, rejection and/or affliction await us all. The challenge for us is to find a way, by the grace of God, to break those cycles of suffering, if not in our own lives, then for the lives of others, rather than for us all to be consumed by them.

Comments like the ones made by your Jobesque friend reveal the lengths some will go to justify their own hypocrisy. Like my granddad used to say, "Poor devils; I pity 'em."

Pastor Phil said...

Hey B,

I've only recently considered the subtle difference between saying that your sin brings your troubles upon you, and saying that when you are oppressed, or abused that God has brought that person into your life to make you see that you have similar attributes as are found in your abuser. To make that statement a universal truth is to say that God sends us abuse because we are abusers. He sends us trouble because we are sinners - or our calamities are upon us because we sinned.

This is a subtle variation of the same old sin/calamity connection. Although it may occasionally be true that God allows such transactions to occur in order that we may learn about ourselves, if we view it as a universal truth it becomes the Jobean heresy.

Pastor Phil said...

Melissa,

I fully agree with the law/grace statement here. Good observation.

Demonic activity comes in anarchic fashion I believe. John Smulo, and I were having some discussions on trying to rethink spiritual warfare sometime back, and during that time there was some consideration of demonic forces being less organized and more anarchic in their activity.

I think the statement in John 9 about the blind man's parents not being the source of the problem speaks to the generational curse issue. In Ezekiel we are told that the saying would no longer stand true, that "the father's have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth are set on edge," and this spoke to breaking the generational curse issue found in the law.

Pastor Phil said...

Mike,

Your observation of living a formulaic life is interesting, because this person would never espouse living by formula, but strangely appears to use this as a formula for ministering to others. Hmmmmm...go figure.

Pastor Phil said...

Caz,

I was telling someone today that the bumper sticker Sh*t Happens might just be a fine Christian thought. It identifies the fact that trouble comes our way without assuming blame - is that holy or what? ;-) It certainly is holier than being judgmental.

Pastor Phil said...

Webb,

Wow, thanks for a great post.

I am not sure if the friend is hypocritical. I believe that he truly means to help - I have to believe that, because love tells me to believe all things, but I supppose your observation may have some validity.

Of course I'm a good play actor myself at times.

Anonymous said...

Phil,

Good stuff tonight. I would also be willing to preach along the same lines if you ever wanted a break.

I can't figure out yet how to set up my filtering software to allow me to post on my blog from home, but I thought I would run what I'm going to post tomorrow by you in appreciation of what you were able to share - despite my blabbing which I wish I would not do so much of.

Even as a "R-independent," I am beginning to see a nasty trend in the church that seems to be barking up all the wrong trees to get a move of God. Maybe, indeed, taking the inspiration of our Sinners and Saints pals might someday "jump-start" a real new move of the Spirit and Salvation. Could "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God" really be the key that the church - which seems to spend most of it's time using corporate strategy and magic to try and move God? I mean, after all, the early church had SEVEN APOSTLE-CALIBER men caring for the poor in the early church...

In Him

Mike

-------

title: "Will the church please stop practicing magic and start caring for the broken-hearted and poor if they really want to see a move of God?"

Fastor Pill talked tonight about two common misconceptions about fearing God and why bad things happen. Phil said – and I agreed with – that folks typically assume two things when bad things happen to them: (a) that it is God’s will that we are encountering suffering (sometimes it is but we can rarely assume this – living in a fallen world) or (b) that because we fear or we’ve sinned, we are receiving punishment (sometimes we receive divine “correction” but we can assume that we’re being punished for something we’ve done wrong every time something bad happens to us.

In short, folks to easily assume that what happens in the “seen” realm (life, the physical world) has a “magical” connection to the spirit realm (“unseen” but just as real). I’ve know too many Christian Magicians who try and use magic to control God in this way.

Another option I thought of that ties into one of Phil’s observations of looking at these two false belief systems is that (c) people suffer simply because we live in a fallen world. In these cases, (a) God is not “sending” the evil, (b) we have done no sin to deserve the suffering (also, God is NOT disciplining us but (c) we are suffering for no reason. Now I am not saying that God will not use the suffering to bring us to higher place. Or - better yet – as Phil observed, we need to take these opportunities to display the glory of God – not blab nonsense like Job’s three friends. But, myself included, folks who suffer always seem to have to explain it away with either a generic “God is in control” or “God is disciplining me” or, at the very least, “God is trying to TEACH me something.”

I say a resounding NO! and amen to Phil and Jesus who observed, “it is neither because this man’s parents sinned or this man sinned [you Christian Magic-Practicing Disciples!... / italics mine, not in scripture…] but that the Glory of God should be revealed.” Now if the church would just stop practicing magic and do what is required for “SuperMiracles” and a move of God which God requires of us: “To bind up the wounds of the broken hearted and care for the poor.”

-moes

Anonymous said...

Of course, we can assume that "binding up the wounds of the broken hearted and caring for the poor" is going to result in some formulaic "GodOutput..."

Also of note - the satement "suffering without reason should be qualified. Later..."

=)

Anonymous said...

Agent B,

Not all charismatic/pentacostal believers follow a "SpiritChemicalEquation." Just many or most.

=)

Mike/Cern said...

'Of course, we can assume that "binding up the wounds of the broken hearted and caring for the poor" is going to result in some formulaic "GodOutput..."'

There's always the possibility. People do love to try to create patterns in the way they live their lives instead of recognising that the machine is just too darned complex to put into little boxes of 'this is the way we do this thing'. We all do it to a certain extent. We all have our little rituals that we feel help us to function. But sometimes we ritualise our lives too much... particularly when we ritualise our dealings with others. :)

BB

Mike

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mike of Earthsea,

I will be calling on you to share some of these observations. Thanks blog-miester.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey B,

Are you insinuating that Pentecostals smoke dope, drop acid, or consume-a-shroom to find God? SpiritChemicalEquaiton? Darn, when did we join the Rastaferians? and how did I miss it?

Pastor Phil said...

Mike ol' buddy ol' Englishman,

I assume that formula living Christians are still living by the milk of the Word, and are not yet ready for meat. But then that may apply for all people in all walks of life, and all religions - that formula is for babies. Whadayathink?

MM said...

I hear what you're saying Phil, people don't realize how stinging those comments can be. When Jim died someone from my old church told me that God was punishing me for turning away from Him. Now what makes that person think I would want to turn back to God under those conditions? Fear, maybe? I serve God because I love Him; certainly not out of fear.

Adam Gonnerman said...

In the effort to sound profound, people can say some terrible things. The best time Job's friends spent with him were the long, quiet hours before they opened their big yappers.

Mike/Cern said...

'I assume that formula living Christians are still living by the milk of the Word, and are not yet ready for meat. But then that may apply for all people in all walks of life, and all religions - that formula is for babies. Whadayathink?'

I dunno. I think it is possible for everyone to recognise the formulaic in their lives. I'm not sure that formulaic Christians are living by the milk of the word or whether they are trying to pass off offal for the meat of the word. I doubt they are doing it deliberately though. That's the thing. Very few people in my experience deliberately set out to create patterns that have the potential to do harm. Very few people adopt destructive approaches for totally personal agrandizement or gain. There's generally the 'This is good for me so it MUST be good for you' or 'This is how the world looks to me so it MUST look that way to you if you're seeing it right' kind of approach that is *supposed* to be 'for our own good'. The sentiments are generally genuine, even if they're not as considered as we might prefer. I try to get to a point where I can find a compassionate way to look on this kind of thing, even when it is infuriating. But it is just possible that the very act of trying to find compassion means that I actually over-look the possibility that I'm being overly charitable about people. :)

BB

Mike

Pastor Phil said...

MM,

Are you serious? I wonder if God is punishing that person for saying that?

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Adam,

Isn't it interesting how our extreme, and unbalanced ideas are often presented in the guise of deep and profound truths?

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mike,

Pass off offal as meat? - what a graphic picture. You made that sound even more bizarre, and grotesque than I imagined.

I agree wiht you completely about people thinking they are helping when they pass off formulas as help. The place in which I find I have no patience is when that formula includes the Pharisaical judgment that there must be "something wrong with you." Until that point formulas may help some people, and mildly frustrate others, but all the while be meant to help.

Good introspective word of warning for all of us - thanks bro.

Mike/Cern said...

'Good introspective word of warning for all of us'

and that is just the point. It is indeed a warning for ALL of us because we can ALL of us find we're pushing something that misses the mark with the people we're pushing it to. So when I start talking rubbish, do please let me know. ;)

BB

Mike