This is part 3 of a series of posts on blame. The posts are based on an idea that when people are going through something difficult they are looking for one of two main things: comfort or blame. Comfort is ideal, but for whatever reason, if we can wag our fingers at someone or something, it feels like it should help.
There is a lot wrong in our world. On an issue level, we have seen many stand up and shout that the American Christian Church is to blame. The church should be doing more and saying more in some cases or in other situations - sit down and shut up.
Most Christians in the US would agree that the church has made mistakes. They would agree that there is more we can be doing to help with the problems that exist around us. Can these people fix everything? Or were they the causes of these things?
On a larger scale, God is an easy target. After all, God is the one who controls everything right? If things are bad, God could have prevented from being bad.
A common Christian response about pain, suffering and problems is that sin is the cause.
Is that a true statement? Let's Explore.
The Big Picture
The theological roots of pinning it all on sin can be found in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve are created. They live in paradise, the Garden of Eden. There they enjoy a level of intimacy and companionship with God so much that God would walk in the garden with them? Genesis 3:8 says that they heard God walking in the garden, but this is that account after they had sinned and now they were hiding from God. The impression is that this was perhaps a regular thing that God would do.
The man and woman decided to not trust or follow God's plan and instead they tried things their own way. This is what sin is and sin has consequences - both natural and punitive. Adam and Eve recognized their nakedness for the first time and felt shame for the first time. God's justice meant that they would be cut off from the tree of life.
The implications are that without sin, Adam and Eve might has been able to live forever with God in paradise. After sin they would have to work hard for their food, experience pain during childbirth and eventually die.
Essentially, this original sin separates 2 epochs of history - a time without death, dying, disease and decay, and a time with all of those things.
Reaping and Sowing
A common idea espoused by the Bible is, "you reap what you sow." Also, from the Bible's creation account, God establishes each living thing to reproduce itself in its own kind. So elephants will give birth to elephants, apple trees will grow apples trees and so on and so forth. So if someone plants a pumpkin seed, a watermelon will not grow up.
The idea is applied to good and evil. If someone sows good, they will reap good. If they sow discord and jealousy, that's what they'll reap.
Here is the actual verse from the Bible, Galatians 6:7-8
7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Application, assumptions and accusations.
What does this look like in real-life applications?
Here are some examples:
Ivan cheated on his wife (sin), this leads to their divorce and shared custody of their children. If Ivan gets discouraged about his new life, most would agree that he only has himself to blame.
Marissa tries to be cool in school and makes fun of the new girl, (sin). After school at the end of the week the new girl beats her up. If Marissa is sore the next day, she can blame the new girl who hit her, but she is reaping violence where she sowed violence.
We can nitpick my examples... but let's move on.
What if Marissa has not done anything mean to the new girl but still gets beat up?
She would receive a series of questions, wouldn't she that would go something like this, "Did you do anything to offend her or make her mad?"
"Did you give her a funny look?" "What did you do to bring this on?"
Marissa would rightfully claim that there was nothing wrong that she did.
Let's pause and turn to James 1:14-15
14 each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
When we free Marissa of guilt, she becomes a victim. Ultimately SIN is still at the root of her pain. It is, in this case however, not her own sin that is causing it.
Let's get back to Ivan. Let's say that one month after his divorce is finalized Ivan gets terribly sick and has to spend 2 weeks in bed. Is this sickness a consequence of his adultery? That is something we can never know here on earth.
One could identify stress and things like that in Ivan's life that may have compromised his immune system. Or maybe, in despair Ivan took to drinking and suffered from alcohol poisoning. It is just a possible that he help a little old lady across the street and she had some terrible sickness that Ivan contracted while doing his good deed.
One person could argue that it is still God punishing Ivan. Another could make the case that his sickness was random. Only God knows.
Our Job as Christians
I think we can be comfortable with the claim that sin is the cause of most, if not all suffering in the world. It is not always a directly corelated thing. Sin leads to death and destruction.
The writing to the Galatians is personal and general. It is not for me to assume that anyone going through a hard time, anyone who has lost someone or is suffering, that they have done something to bring it upon themselves. They may have, but my role is not to determine or decipher. The first verse of that chapter says that the Christian is supposed to work to restore and then the section ends with a call to "do good to all people."
We can blame sin all we want, but God would rather have us in the business of bringing people comfort and peace.