16th Sep, 2008

The Bitter Fruit of Judgment and the Blessed Juice of Faith

We are so quick to judge what is bad and what is good. Someone has cancer: BAD. Someone gets a new job and a pay raise: GOOD. Sunny day: GOOD. Hurricane: BAD. And, as a result of all our judging we build theologies about God and the way He works to line up with our judgments. If a hurricane is bad then surely it can’t be from God because God is good. In some way we don’t understand we judge that the hurricane must be brought about by the devil or evil or anything other than God because we have judged the effects of the storm as evil. Never mind that God is sovereign.

The one thing God warned Adam and Eve to avoid was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What does it mean to partake of the knowledge of good and evil if it doesn’t mean to decide that you know what is good and what is evil? As soon as we decide we can determine for ourselves what is good and what is evil we are taking on a role that God alone can do righteously. We have moved from being the created to usurping the role of God. And by so doing we partake of that forbidden fruit and participate in the original sin that separated humanity from its loving Creator so many years ago.

My experience here at the Proton Therapy Center of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Houston, Texas demonstrates quickly how silly all our “wise” adjudication is. I am surrounded by families who are being ravaged by the trials of seeing a loved one afflicted with cancer. Nevertheless, there is more hope here than I often found at my last workplace or in a Sunday School class. Everyone here talks to one another and is friendly. People who have never met before share their food and volunteer information freely. A child sits next to an adult and puts together a jigsaw puzzle. There is a sense of family and togetherness that wouldn’t otherwise exist without the shared squeezing of a battle against cancer. So, is the cancer really “bad” or could it be a blessing from a loving and good God to teach all of us who are here soemthing about what it means to be more like Jesus? (In the same way I see similar principles at work with the Hurricane as well.) What was that verse we all love to quote? Something about all things working together for good? All things? Cancer? Hurricanes? Difficulties? Trials? Tribulations?

It seems to me that what happens in this world often isn’t necessarily good or bad – at least not in the way we would define such terms. What really matters are the choices we make in response to life. We can make good or bad choices. And what makes a choice good or bad is quite simple. If we choose to do something that doesn’t line up with God’s promises – something that isn’t loving and true – then we choose badly. When we choose to love selflessly, as Christ did 100% of the time, then we have done what is good and right.

May we be able to face God as Job did and say:

I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:2-5.

Then, perhaps, we will truly be wise and demonstrate it in the way James described: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13. Let us stop fretting over life’s circumstances, always reeling in reaction to every wind of life, and start living the life of love, working in humility and in the fear of the Lord, knowing that God is infinitely good, loving, faithful, kind, patient, gracious, merciful, just, wise, and compassionate. Only then can we drink in the fresh-squeezed nectar of faith, not doubting God, casting all our cares on Him, and loving with a single minded devotion to the One Who will always care for us. James 1:2-17; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22.

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