Friday, August 21, 2009
[Anger and vengence: German prisoners killed by Czechs; U.S. Army Footage filmed on May 8 1945]
Although any rational person must be overwhelmed by the kindness and goodness of God and the care which He devotes to sustaining all life every moment, however we must also look briefly at the pain and suffering which exists in the world. It too is an example of God's kindness and majesty.
I believe that today’s news media tends to focus excessively on what goes wrong rather than on what goes right. Only about one commercial airline flight per million suffers a fatal crash, however that is the one you will you see in the evening news. People are fascinated by tragedy. This distorts terribly our understanding of the world and life.
Nevertheless, there are real tragedies every day. How do we reconcile God’s infinite kindness with human tragedy?
The answer is that not only is God kind, He is also just. Every sin is punished and the punishment is always big. The Bible and Talmud are filled with this concept; see the book of Lamentations for just one classic example. There is no escape and there are no exceptions, other than repentance.
This is how we can reconcile seemingly contradictory verses.
The LORD is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalms 145:9)
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God, the LORD avengeth and is full of wrath; the LORD taketh vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies. (Nahum 1:2)
I think we can say that God practices “tough love”. He is kind and loving, however He is not an enabler. The Talmud teaches us "one must receive the evil with gladness". It is all for our good.
The punishment however is often far removed from the sin, perhaps later in this life, perhaps in the afterlife or perhaps in a future incarnation. This in itself is an additional layer of punishment. Since we have forgotten about God, He may give an appearance of having forgotten about us.
Nevertheless, when suffering strikes, even when the justification for it is unclear, one thing is clear: This is an example of God’s anger. If a father spanks one child, all the children learn to behave - if they are smart. This is a reminder to us to repent. This is a wake up call. It’s a lesson which should not be wasted.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:41 AM