Devotional Thoughts: In this life or the next
Reading Job isn't so easy. It is kind of like reading only the bad news parts of the newspaper without ever reading any of the good news or "fun news." But will keep marching through and use it to guide my reflections on life and faith on this blog.
Here, a second friend, Bildad, speaks up.
The message is similar to Eliphaz's in Job 4-5 though Bildad is more direct. Bildad immediately goes after Job ...
Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
How long will you say these things,
and the words of your mouth be a great wind?
Does God pervert justice?
Or does the Almighty pervert the right?
Eliphaz said a few nice things about Job in chapter 4 before making essentially the same argument.
Eliphaz talked in general terms about the relationship between innocence and blessing, sin and suffering. Bildad personalized it immediately ...
If your children have sinned against him,
he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.
What Bildad said has elements of truth. Indeed, God is just though we may not see the full scales of justice balanced until the afterlife. There are consequences to sin but because we live in a fallen world suffering befalls both the innocent and the guilty. So I suppose one might say Bildad's observations don't convey the whole picture of what is going on.
But clearly, here is an example of NOT speaking the truth in love. I once heard someone tell me, speaking the truth in love is hard because so often we speak the truth without love and that is cruel. Likewise, we can speak in love without truth and that turns out to be hypocrisy.
Bildad goes on to say more that have grains of truth but because we have the totality of Scripture in our hands we know his perspective is incomplete...
If you will seek God
and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore your rightful habitation.
And though your beginning was small,
your latter days will be very great.
Bildad's perspective seemed limited to the here and now. If justice as an ideal actually exists and there is a god who is just then an afterlife is necessary to balance the scales of justice. Illustrating this idea is a dramatic moment in the film Gladiator where the Russell Crowe's character Maximus spoke to the man who ordered the death of his family and tried to have him killed as well:
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.Though we trust in God for the righting of the scales of justice ultimately, I think there is a place for striving for justice in the here and now.
As a personal note, though I understand the sentiments of Christians who are pacifists, I respectfully do not hold to their view. If God cares about justice then with a great deal of humility on our part, we need to seek justice in the here and now. Thus, for instance, criminals need to be punished and to the best of our ability we should find punishments that match the crime neither over doing it or under doing it. Likewise, in conflicts between nation-states and in the era of terrorism, conflicts with non-state actors, there is a place for justice involving careful use of violence.
As a final thought for the morning, one can make arguments for the existence of God: there is a creation, therefore a creator, there is design in the world therefore a designer, there is a concept of god in the minds of humans therefore there is an actual god, there is a sense of morality within us therefore there is a source for morality from god. People don't have to buy any of these arguments as they certainly don't constitute proof in any strong sense of the word but they are suggestive of god.
But the last one is the most intriguing. We do feel a sense of outrage at the injustice in the world. Where does that come from? We have two choices:
(1) Our outrage is purely emotionally with no foundation in any real concepts of justice. We watch the animal world and see the brutality of animals to each other in cannibalistic behavior and slaughter of prey by predator with zero remorse. One may conclude that justice is irrelevant but survival is.
(2) The outrage comes from a sense of justice thus the argument for god based on morality. But then comes the next problem, how do we feel about a god who is just allowing some much injustice to exist? That is a tough one.
As a Christian, it is an article of faith that I believe that God ultimately will balance the scales of justice. Job and people like him, in this life or the next will be vindicated (in the story, Job is vindicated in this life). Likewise, bad guys, like people who gleefully plan for car bombing children, they too will be punished in this life or the next.
Lord, have mercy on us all! There is a lot of injustice around the globe. My prayer is that there would be individual acts of compassion and mercy in many pockets of the world. And indeed, my prayer also is that for those who have been granted power, help them to use their power for justice but with humility and caution. Amen.