When bad things happen does God cause them?
This is one of those timeless questions people have always asked. The short answer is NO. A related and more difficult question is this: does God punish us by making bad things happen to us when we ‘do the wrong thing’. Once again, the short answer is NO.
Still, a common notion among folks with some working knowledge of the Christian religion is that God does cause bad things and punish us for wrongdoing. After all, they say, it’s all over the Old Testament. This breeds fear and a lack of peace. I mean, if we are always worried that God is going to strike us down with a bolt of lightening because we messed up… how can we ever have any peace?
On a longer, closer and more attentive reading of Scripture we find the following:
1) God is in control of all things but leaves a lot up to the free will of people.
2) Things we might call ‘punishments’ are usually just foreseeable consequences of bad actions.
3) When God does work in the world (and people’s lives) God’s hallmark is to take bad actions, mistakes, and garbage and make something new and healthy out of it.
This week, we are talking about ‘peace’… and to have a relationship with God in faith, we need to have peace with God first. Fearing God’s ‘lightening strikes’ can never lead to peace. Paul captures an essential truth about the Christian faith when he says in Romans 5:1:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus
Or, in other words, when we believe that God is not ‘against us’ but standing ready to lead us to fullness of life and love and health (even through our bad actions and mistakes)… we can have a lasting sense of security and peace.
God IS on our side.