Monday, April 1, 2013

Justice in Suffering


As a mother walks on the sidewalk with her baby in a stroller, a drunken taxi driver ploughs into them; the baby dies instantly. A pregnant mother tried her best to curb her chain-smoking, but failed; her child is born with birth defects.

Some are born into a wealthy home with a silver spoon; they enjoy their abundance. Some in an average middle class home struggle to receive what they need - even a modern day essential such as an unlimited talk time on cell phone. Others are born in slums and their struggles are for a mere cup of tea and a slice of bread. 

How is a child born in a slum less deserving of the mortal pleasures? How would a child born to a chain-smoking mother deserve a life time of disability?

We have absolutely no control over the place, health, and wealth of our birth. The sovereign God authors the script; we are the reluctant actors. Are we mere dominoes that fall when knocked down? God gives as HE wills. So am I to merely accept and try to live my best? “Life sucks; I am a mere puppet in the hands of a cruel God,” so we scream. The scream seems legit! 

God decides that some be born in wealth and some in dirt. After such a birth, what is God’s plan to make a life good? Bible says that in all things God works for the good of those who love HIM (Romans 8:28, NIV). Do these sound good - defective births, untimely death, and birth in a slum? Or should we rethink our definition of good? If we are born into a healthy and wealthy home, then God is good. If not, do we rethink God?

How does God decide our place of birth? God is a God of Justice (Deuteronomy 32:4; Revelation 16:5 et al.). We believe a ‘Just’ God should not relegate humans into slums or sickness. If a baby is born in a slum or with sickness, we sense a denial of justice. So, we view God as a source of happiness. In other words, if I am happy, then God is just. If I am unhappy, is God unjust?

Happiness is a relative term. The poor may be satisfied to receive a slice of bread and a cup of tea. A meager quantity such as this would not satisfy a person belonging to the middle-class or rich. (Please allow me to switch tracks.) If God in HIS justice provides the middle-class and rich with just a hut to live, they would not be happy (unless we find a middle-class or rich human living in a hut). Hence, God’s justice need not necessarily result in human happiness, even if HE intends it to be.

Without sickness there is no healing, without adversity no miracle. God’s glory is powerfully evident during adversities (miracles of Christ). A healthy life causes happiness, and sickness triggers sadness. Even if healing is not taken into consideration, the sick are happy to receive good medical care and financial support. Joyful testimonies of people having received such benefits during their sickness are an affirmation. In this instance, the justice of God brings happiness to a suffering soul. In some cases, people grieve in their sickness despite receiving good medical care and financial support. Situation remains status quo – happiness need not result from God’s justice, although God does provide a way out of suffering.

Ever wondered why the disciples of the Lord - Andrew, Philip, Nathanael (Bartholomew), Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus-Judas, and the late entrant Matthias were not given prominence in the Bible, yet each one died a martyr’s death? If they had received their prominence, then their martyrdom could seem justifiable. The Bible does not teach that prominence, popularity, and power are the only destinations for the Lord’s disciples. Instead, the Lord’s disciples are to be obedient to the Lord, and accept what God in HIS justice offers to them. Happiness is never found in prosperity, but in obedience to God, in doing HIS perfect and pleasing will.

In a nutshell, God’s justice cannot be understood from man’s perspective. Our perspective mutates circumstantially. But, God gives to man everything what each thing requires to be the kind of thing it is (distributive justice).1

In God there is no injustice (2 Chronicles 19:7), so God cannot offer cruel things. What God gives is good, but our understanding of good needs to be redefined. (Please allow me to use ‘justice’ and ‘good’ interchangeably.) It is unjust (‘not good’) that someone be killed, but it is justice (‘good’) when a soldier dies for the sake of his country. ‘Good’ needs to be comprehended from a greater perspective (in this case - community). Thus, justice should also be seen from a greater perspective (community), not just from a personal perspective. 

We are a long way off the Garden of Eden - intended as a place of equality and rest. Sin and evil blessed us with societal strata. For instance, doctor’s and sanitation workers are essential to our existence, but their characteristics are poles apart. Without doctors we may die early, and without sanitation workers we would live in miserable stench. (Only those who bear stench can remove garbage.) The complexity of our world demands people in all societal strata. Doctors and sanitation workers are necessities. Hence, God gives to man everything that he needs to be as God wants him to be. (We will not address the existential dilemma of doctors being content, and sanitation workers demanding status i.e. to be doctors).

Our society is constructed such that some ought to be placed higher or lower. So, God in HIS justice decides the birth. But HE has also given much to the middle-class and wealthy with an intent that they would take care of the poor and lowly. It is the failure of these sections of the society that we still have the underprivileged. How many times have we seen a sanitation worker and given him food or a drink? After all, he keeps our precincts clean! If we have much, and fail to take care of our neighbor in need, then we are to be blamed, not God (Cf. Luke 12:48; Matthew 25:34-46). God has not failed in being just; we are failing in our responsibility. God’s people are to serve to alleviate pain and poverty, for we are the body of Christ. We cannot ignore our neighbor in pain.

Suffering is an outcome of sin and evil. But the suffering soul ought to remove his focus from self and look to God for HIS omnipresent grace and strength. God ensures justice by always satisfying a suffering soul (Psalm41:3; Isaiah 53:5; Malachi 4:2; Luke 9:11). Hence, we must trust God. HE alone provides us with sustenance. The unhealthy or poor should trust HIM even more.

We celebrated “Good Friday” – the Lord’s suffering. Even though we shudder at the extent of suffering the Lord bore, we are glad for that suffering brought salvation to mankind. Thus God established justice from suffering. One’s suffering brought mankind much good. Similarly, God will bring good even from one man’s suffering.

Hence, I believe that there is justice in suffering. Amen. 



Reference:

1Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Question 21, Article 1.

15 comments:

Benjamin Durairaj said...

God's perspective of justice has been made very clear to me after reading this.
I have often questioned God's plan in my life....at times even shouted out loud that "If there trluy was a God then i would not have ended up in this mess !!! " questioning His very existence.

Its always difficult to put complete trust on Him when it seems like our life is crashing in on us...but God never puts us in situations if He thought we didn't have what it takes to get past it.

We just have to walk with God to make sure that His block buster plan for our lives actually happens :D :D

Anonymous said...

The trouble with this idea that although God determines our circumstances (which sometimes are nothing short of unbearable), he is still good because of even the most faint blessings that we're all bound to encounter, is that it sort of resembles an abusive marriage - the hand that smites you is also the hand that feeds you and also the hand that caresses you and so on. A relationship where love and fear are intertwined like this simply becomes too confusing and too exhausting.

Either that or love needen't be part of the equation at all. There are those that say he really doesn't like us very much and simply pities us enough - us being the vermin that we are - that he at least temporarily allows us to live. Gratitude, in turn, means being glad that he doesn't kill you on the spot. But if this is genuinely the sort of figure you look up to, it becomes impossible ever to like anybody, yourself included.

So anyway...it's all a bit long and a bit out of the blue...I can't agree with your post but I just wanted to say that I value very highly the rare occurences of geninue compassiion toward others. So it was heartwarming in a way :)

Raj Richard said...

Bro, First, thanks much for sharing your thoughts. Second, I agree with your thoughts, for you are speaking the cries of the heart. My heart cries too...and so many times at that...so, I can honestly say that I know where you are coming from. Third, may I seek clarity on "faint blessings" and "bound to encounter." I ask since this seems to be the foundation to your thought. Look to your response, brother. God bless....Much love

Raj Richard said...

Benji, Thanks for your candid comment. When we walk with God, He gives us the necessary strength with which we can tide over any situation. I dont mean to say that life will be easy, but His power would be made perfect in and through our pain.

Anonymous said...

Well, the "blessings" come simply from having a universe which supports life. If you don't die off immediately, it will still support you to some extent, even if you're weak. Although every once in a while there are tornadoes and tsunamis and all that...

You don't really need God to explain the universe. Nor life. We may not know much about it, but what we do know doesn't really point to anything - life just points to life - it simply leaves everything to be interpreted.

The universe certainly isn't concerned with cruelty. Around 17 000 children die daily of hunger. Contrasting that to a sunny day is unfair, it should be contrasted to human kindness. But human kindness is just that - human, not divine.

So no - the blessings don't point to God for me. Life and the universe can be explained with or without God, but suffering, for me, can only be explained without.

Raj Richard said...

Thanks for your response, Bro.

I think your negation of God is due to the unbearable circumstances. At the core of your argument is the conflict between God and 'No-God.'

If God does not create or sustain, then who does? From your response, I reckon it's the 'universe.' So, we are essentially talking about an Almighty living God or a universe that is not a living being. What I don't understand is how a lifeless universe supports living beings - you and me? (Where does life originate from?)

If suffering can only be explained without God, then what is the cause of suffering?

Sarah Bhuyan said...


The very fact that we question and seek explanation points to some one who is answerable. The one who is answerable is the one in authority. Head of the family, or church or State.
We do not ask a peon or the office building to explain a multi crore scam, do we ? Hence, we assume there is some one out there to whom I can raise my questions.

An honest cry from our heart when everything around us crashes
is understood by God and He can handle it. The fact that we use
"if there is a God..... We are half way through the fact that there is a God, but at this moment I am feeling like He is not there. God is capable of handling that situation and He will enable us to move from that "if" to " Yes, He is who he is ."
Bible gives examples of people like Sarah and Benjamin and Raj.. God knows who we are. All our bravado at times crashes, But our God doesnt. He says, "walk with me, I am capable of handling your life." We know it only in hindsight.

Remain blessed all you guys,
Sara

Sarah Bhuyan said...


Please permit me to dialogue reg the analogy of the ' abusive marriage 'in terms of God as the abuser is not right. I follow The Bible and hence the Bible is my basis. In Hosea, God is the one who is going after the abusive,adulterous people. All the abuse and insults comes from us.

The Messiah died for us who are made in His image -
Vermin has no image of God - and it was love and justice that took him to the cross.

Thank you for reading,
Sarah

Anonymous said...

Well, in Job, on the other hand, all Job's kids had to die just so God could prove a point. In Exodus, women and children had to be killed so the israelites could come in and live. In the Mosaic law, women were treated as property - if an unmarried girl was raped, the rapist's punishment was having to pay the bride price and then having to marry the girl...unless her father decided against it.

In the New Testament, Paul forbids women to speak publicly, or to appear in church without a veil, or to teach another man - so you are violating scripture as we speak.

Unless you consider places like Saudi Arabia or Iran to be the closest thing we have to heaven, you probably don't "follow the Bible" as much as you say. And this God is not the sort that I could ever love. Fortutantely, there's no evidence that he actually exists. I think we would be much worse off with him than we already are.

Raj Richard said...

Anyone who negates God's presence should explain:
1. The origin of life (where did I come from).
2. The cause for suffering (within our context) or broadly speaking, Morality.
3. Meaning behind our life (what am I doing here).
4. Destiny (Where am I going?)
(ref. Ravi Zac)

Reg. Unfair deaths: Bible teaches that God who is the creator and sustainer of life has the right to take away life.

The point about raped girl is that of justice.

About evidence for existence of God, this is a much debated topic. So without reinventing the wheel, I will refer you to http://www.existence-of-god.com/does-god-exist.html. I am sure much is said there.

Love your participation, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Do keep them coming. May God bless you richly.

Sarah Bhuyan said...

Quote Raj :
"God has not failed in being just; we are failing in our responsibility. God’s people are to serve to alleviate pain and poverty, for we are the body of Christ. We cannot ignore our neighbor in pain". It is so true.


Duet.15 :4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today."
Duet 15:11 " There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore, I command you to be open handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land".

We believe that the Bible does not contradict itself. So, what does it mean when we read in the same chapter, ' there should be no poor' and ' there will always be " ?
When we look at the context, we find , it is our hard heartedness and pride that resulted in unequal distribution of wealth. At the core of our heart is sin, selfishness,
God being God, He uses every situation and works out every situation for the good of those who love him.. Let every man be a liar, unjust. But in god there is no injustice. The wise will make his nest close to the Almighty.

Sarah

Sarah Bhuyan said...

" For instance, doctor’s and sanitation workers are essential to our existence, but their characteristics are poles apart ".- quote from the blog.

Pages of history says that christians looked at Slavery as an accepted privilege until it was abolished.

Are we also saying that slaves are essential to our existence , I am just wondering,..

Sarah Bhuyan

Raj Richard said...

Sarah,

Doctor's and Sanitation workers are vocations, whereas slavery is an oppression.

Oppression is not essential to our existence, whereas vocation is.

Hope am making sense.

Sarah Bhuyan said...


I think, a person sells himself or been forcefully taken as slave. Given a choice, he would not want either of it.
If he sells himself, can we call that a vocation ? or oppression ?

Sanitation worker's children will/might continue to remain in the same job unless we give them a helping hand. We can stay away from giving that helping hand by thinking that there is justice because God has assigned that lot to him.
There is a problem there. A tension. .

Its not very simple, I know, because we constantly strive to improve our situation and every person wants better life for their children. In this process, I think we need to strike a balance of not being dogmatic and continue to be compassionate. This subject is not easy, I agree. I am not able to express the tension that I feel .

Sarah

Raj Richard said...

Sarah,

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

Years ago, during Christmas, a group of us brought a few families of sanitation workers, and treated them to games, Christmas drama, food, and gave them some goodies as well. It was enjoyable and more than that, an eye opener.

These people came in their best attires, but when we hugged them goodbye, they were surprised. Then one man came to me and invited me to his home. I told him that I will surely come. That response itself astounded him big time. He asked how on earth will I come into his rather simple home. I said, I dont have a problem. If my memory serves me right, he shed tears.

All am saying is that we need to be proactive.

On an another note, when a person sells himself to be a slave, he is under compulsion. :)

God bless U sister :)