I made the comment in a previous post that ‘I cannot for absolute certainty say that God has answered my prayers’. While this statement in and of itself is true, I will add the following.
While I cannot be absolutely sure that God has answered any particular prayer, I do choose to believe that God does answer prayer. I choose to believe this because I have an inexplicable sense that there is some kind of higher power not only directing my life, but also listening to my prayers and acting in response to those prayers. This doesn’t mean that God gives me everything I ask for, that in His infinite wisdom He doesn’t choose to withhold some things in favour of something more beneficial.
I am sure that many incidences of a sense of prayer being answered could be explained away as mere coincidence. That prayers pertaining to guidance and clarity are simply wasted words, considering that with time clarity will come to most situations. But there is something inexplicable at work. I choose to believe that this something is in fact the biblical reality of a living God.
Whatever promotes love, community, tolerance, peace, unity, fair and just judgement, understanding; all those things that create and maintain harmony on earth, this is what I want to be focusing my energies on. So far in my life – and admittedly I’ve only been on this planet for a short 28 years – the central message of the Christian Bible just seems to be the most solid solution for achieving all those things.
Recently I met a man by the name of Michael Rich, who in his twenties (1975-ish) travelled in South America for a number of months. He shared with me an essay he had written about his experiences and his thoughts on life during his travels…
“(At the Nicaraguan border) I was warned not to go into the hill country (of Colombia). The area is reputed to have the best dope in the world…Santa Maria gold. Yet even here is a paradox. People trapped in poverty grow dope to eek out a living and then sell to sleek, fat cats who live on the cream. Seems that we know how we ought to behave yet our actions don’t measure up.”
“We seem to be subject to a moral law we didn’t invent, which doesn’t go away, and which I feel I ought to obey. In other words, some force wants me to behave in a certain way. Somehow I feel I, too, have broken the moral law and put myself wrong with the force that controls the universe.”
As way of background, Michael was about 24 years old at the time of writing this text, and admits that despite an upbringing in a Christian church he did not understand much of what the Christian life was actually about.
The reason I mention this is because this reflects closely the journey I have been on for the last few years. Over time I have come to realize that despite my upbringing in a supportive Christian environment, I absorbed ideas that in fact did not reflect the central message of the Bible. My ideas about the world revolved around me trying to be as good as possible and obeying rules. This worldview led to me actually being quite narrow-minded and judgemental.
Michael goes on to say:
“(I) have been wondering if the Christian answer to life is true. Education and science only go so far.”
Once again this is a reflection of my own ponderings of the workings of the world we live in. Philosophy and worldviews abound here on earth, and they all offer different suggestions as to the solution to how to solve the dilemma of us humans breaking this “moral law we didn’t intent, which doesn’t go away…which I feel I ought to obey” and I would add, “the breaking of which seems to be the source of all suffering and unrest and pain in our lives.”
“History books are blotted by man-made misery, exploitation, war and terror. The sins have not improved to what they were yesterday. This implies that sin is part of raw human nature. We revolve around ourselves, rather than God. It’s like trying to run a car on water when it is made for petrol. What a mess we’re in. The Christian remedy involves repentance: humbly admitting that one is a natural sinner. It involves belief: that God sent His own Son, who is both God and man, into the world to shoulder our sins. At the cross God poured the sins of mankind into the sinless Christ. He then endured spiritual, physical, and mental hell before dying. Because of His death and resurrection our sins are paid for. We now have the opportunity to be born spiritually alive on this earth. It involves asking: asking Christ to come into the centre of our life in place of our ego. The practical implications of this last step will be costly and hard in terms of earthly standards.”
Wow. Just wow. “Asking a living God to come into the center of our lives in place of our ego”. A God that embodies all those things that I listed earlier (all that creates harmony on earth) and more. This is an awesome concept. Is it just a concept? Or is it real? Seeing the incredible changes that living out this concept has on people, I cannot help but have a sense that it is real. And the changes that I see all point towards those things I listed earlier that create harmony on earth.
At my stage of understanding and where I am at right now, I see this as an immediate ‘right now’ solution to the mess that humanity is (we are) in. And I say ‘right now’, because I feel that so often there is an over-emphasis of the afterlife in the Western Christian worldview that promotes an unhealthy over-focus on the future, and draws our attention away from the immediate hurt in humanity that requires immediate attention.
In his musings in his essay, Michael is now coming to clearer understanding of what the Christian faith is about at its core, stripped away from the cultural and human baggage that hangs off the term “Christian”; a result of many years of the seemingly faultless message of Jesus being dragged through the mud of humans’ lust for power.
“There are many things about the Christian life which I don’t understand. At this stage it is not important to do so as Christianity is a live faith. If all things were coldly and logically thought out beforehand, one would be committed to a dead faith.”
This also reflects my own journey. There is much that I don’t understand. For example, recently, I have been working my way through a ‘bible in a year’ thing where I aim to read through the entire Bible in 6 months. I’m up to Leviticus in the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament of the bible, certainly at first glance, does seem to fit horrifically well into Richard Dawkins’ description of him;
“The god of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction. Jealous and proud of it. A petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, philocidal, pestilential, megamoliniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (as read by Dawkins in an interview in film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed).
What is the big picture of the Old Testament? How can God allow the killing of so many people in His quest to fulfill promises to just one nation out of many on the earth at the time of the Old Testament? Am I even allowed to ask this, considering that I am taught that “God’s ways are not our ways”?
To not ask questions, to just blindly believe whatever supports my worldview, is no longer my style.
All I can hold onto, while I seek answers to my questions, is that the central gospel message of Christ just seems to makes sense.
Like a friend once said to me, “It’s no use throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.