God’s Bad Rap
Rev. Paul Turner
“My sister has cancer. I just can’t believe in a God who would make her suffer like that.”
I had to be honest with my young friend. “I can’t believe in that God either. I believe in God, but not in one who makes people suffer.”
God has a bad reputation. You can hear about it in the way we talk. If you get injured, people will tell you, “It’s God’s will.” If your mother dies, they say, “God needed her there more than here.” If it rains on your graduation day, you ask, “What did I do wrong to deserve this?”
And if your sister gets cancer, you might think God is a hypocrite: “If God is supposed to be all loving, how could he allow this to happen?”
God has a bad reputation. We talk about him as someone who torments us, gives us grief, waits for us to make one little mistake and then punishes us when we do wrong. We talk about a God who is aloof.
Do you really believe in that God? I don’t.
I believe in a God who gives us two gifts: Freedom and love. They are the two most precious gifts in the world, but they come at a price.
God gives us freedom. We are free to choose, free to act. Free to accept good, free to reject it. God even gives nature freedom to do good or reject it. The price of that freedom is that sometimes evil happens. Sometimes we do it, sometimes nature does. It’s a heavy price, but it has to be paid if freedom is to be free.
God also gives us love. God is love, he cannot give us anything else. Even if we choose evil, God will love us as his own. Even if nature chooses evil, God will still love us.
When we accuse God of punishing us through sickness or natural disasters, we’ve got the wrong God. Ours is not a God of vengeance. Ours is a God of freedom. Ours is a God of love.
The ultimate example is the death and resurrection of Jesus – the heart of the TEC experience. Jesus gave death freedom to work on his own life, but in love he rose again to save us from death.
What do you say to a friend when tragedy strikes? Beware of giving God a bad rap. Say, “I’m sorry,” not, “It’s God’s will.” Say, “I’m sure God is sorry, too.”
The face of God is not a mask
of death. The face of God is in the
tears of friends who cry. The face
of God is the hope of eternal life.
first appeared in Communicator: National
TEC Conference Omaha NE April,
1989, p. 5.