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Friday, December 28, 2012

God talks to us in the langauge we best understand

And actions speak louder than words.

If you're like me, you've sometimes wondered why God allows bad things to happen to good people. I've often found myself questioning God's plan, wondering if there even is a plan. Two stories in the Bible were always particularly troubling to me. I'm no Bible scholar, and perhaps that's actually to my benefit. I'm starting to believe that the people who think they know everything are the ones who still have the most to learn. Shortly I'll be discussing my own personal exegesis of two stories that have troubled me, but first I need to make clear my own personal understanding of faith in God.

What I've come to believe is that God talks to all of us in the language that we best understand. I really believe that. He doesn't speak to me in Latin, or Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic, he speaks in English, but not just in English. God speaks in actions, insights, strange coincidences, hints, and small miracles. He speaks in the kindness of strangers. He speaks in life's joys, and also in its sorrows.

The stories of the Crucifixion in the New Testament and the story of Job in the Old Testament make me wonder: Why did God allow Jesus to be brutally tortured? Why did God allow Job to lose everything? Why was all this suffering necessary? It often seemed so pointless, so barbaric, and so primitive. Most of the Bible seems that way to me, like it's just chock full of war, cataclysms, sacrifices, and blood. A modern man like myself, reading these words from ages past...I just can't understand the thinking of these primitive writers. It's almost like watching cavemen bash each other with rocks and throw themselves off of cliffs at the spectacle of a solar eclipse. That's the trap though, isn't it? It's so easy to fall into this that most common of snares for people who think they know everything—you can't tell them anything.

So then concerning these two Biblical stories, there are two things I wish to make clear. The first is that the stories in the Bible are still as relevant and important today, as they were back on the day that they were first written. However these stories use different words and different languages today than when they were first written. And it's not only the words themselves that have changed since they were first written; the stories too have also changed. Finally, our modern outlook has likewise changed. Therefore the meaning and morality that we today are able to take away from these Bible stories is completely different from that of those ancients. This too is part of God's plan.

The second thing I want to make clear is this: I believe that if I would learn God's plan, then I must understand that he speaks to me in the languages that most directly move me. When I ask questions, he answers me not only with words from the Bible but with concrete actions, signs, portents, and coincidences. Therefore if I would listen well, I must listen with more than my ears. If I would understand, I must see with more than my eyes. My intuition and my faith along with my five senses and the knowledge and wisdom I've gathered in my lifetime together form the gestalt language that God communicates to me with. It's a language that is completely personal and unique to me alone.

A Bible scholar who speaks the old languages and has researched the history of ancient times is justifiably proud of himself. Perhaps he considers himself a detective on the hunt for clues, or perhaps he's that master riddler who imagines that he's at the cusp of answering life's biggest riddle of all—why are we here. Meanwhile, here's ignorant little old me, who comes along and thinks: he's off on the wrong track. God's not speaking to people in Aramaic anymore.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer? God was speaking directly to the people of that time. He was teaching them in that language that they alone best understood. Today we not only don't speak that language, we don't understand that culture, the knowledge of the people, their experiences, their hopes and fears, the day-in day-out things that only a people like those Jews in those days could ever hope to understand. I could learn Hebrew perhaps if I wished. I could probably learn Latin and Greek and even Aramaic, but I don't imagine that I could ever come to fully understand the lesson which God was teaching those people on that day, because it's not just Greek to me, it's completely unfathomable.

Finally, I come last to that incomprehensible tale which is the testing of Job. Here's the man who put his faith in God. He did everything right. He owned a prosperous house and had a happy and healthy family. He had satisfied workers. He had wealth, and prosperity. Everything was going great and then Boom! Satan came and took it all away. It seemed almost like betting on a dogfight, immoral. It seemed so small and petty. When I read these words it didn't fill me with confidence. It didn't convince me that God is a just and loving God. A good man had great wrong done to him and apparently done with God's connivance. How can something like this ever be justified? The lesson for me is that this again was a lesson God was teaching. God was speaking in the language that was best able to influence the one for whom the lesson was intended. For me the lesson is this: God hasn't given up on anything. He hasn't given up on us. He hasn't given up on the world. He hasn't even given up on the evilest one of them all! I believe that God was hoping to teach Satan a lesson, and the thing about lessons is this: we only teach lessons to those we believe can learn from them.

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