Good and Bad and Bad and Good

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For last night’s hunger session in our “The Good and Beautiful God” series, Kuya Aleks was absent, but he sent us these guide questions:

Interaction on Soul Training:

  1. What, if anything, did you learn about God or yourself through the exercises?
  2. Was it hard for you to find 5 minutes for silence each day?
  3. What stood out for you as you paid closer attention to the created world around you?

Discussion on Chapter:

  1. The author shares a story of being confronted by a friend who says that either his sin or his wife’s sin had caused hisdautghter Madeline’s illness. What was your reaction to that story?
  2. Have you ever had times when you felt God was punishing you for a sin or perhaps had a friend tell you that was happening to you?
  3. The author points out that many live by the narrative that says. “God is an angry judge. If you sin you will be punished.” Has this narrative ever affected you? If so, where did that narrative come from?
  4. Look back at the section called “The Good Only the Good Know” (pp.46-47) St Augustine had a brilliant insight when he shifted the discussion away from the “cause and effect” notion of sin and suffering and taught instead about the “peculiar good” belonging to those who do good and the evil that results from evil. For example, a person who goes about doing good will experience blessings unknown to those who do evil such as inner contentment, the good feeling of having helped another, trust and so on. If time allows, tell stories of people you have know who have received the “good” because of their goodness.

During the social training part, we discovered that we had a tendency to be caught up in the mechanics, to judge or justify actions, to carry out only recent instructions and forget old ones, and a common appreciation of the beauty of the moon. None of us actually mentioned God then, but seeing beyond ourselves helps prepare our hearts to worship.

In the second part, we agreed that the friend in the first question was an insensitive one and that even though none of us had voiced out such an opinion, a few of us held such musings in similar situations. Ate Daph once shared that she realized she viewed God in a transactional manner. While we didn’t hold that view of a God who was eager to punish, we expected earthly rewards for our good deeds. We think that this paradigm comes from our upbringing–discipline at home, awards in school, and promotions at work. It’s the norm for society. But this doesn’t mean that parents should not discipline their children. Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. There is no pattern. As stated in Matthew 5:45, “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

To be honest, I was disappointed with the last question. It’s not that I disagree with St. Agustine’s brilliance. I do find comfort in knowing that our intentions have special consequences, but I think it’s important to see things in the light of the cross. Just as the author points us to reexamine our narratives of God in the light of how Jesus viewed God, I didn’t want us to miss the opportunity to see more of who Jesus is.

Two of the many lines I underlines are these:

Jesus not only explains suffering, he experienced suffering. He endured suffering. He endured the worst kind of alienation possible as he hung on the cross, feeling that his Father had forsaken him.

Both the man’s blindness and His suffering on the cross displayed God’s power and willingness to forgive us.

I was reminded of a verse:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

[Romans 8:28]

Connect it with the story of the rich, young ruler who wanted to enter heaven on his own merit. Jesus asked him, “Who is good but God?”

When you read on to the next few verses, you’ll see that all things work together for us believers to become like Christ.

We falter so much in our attempts to believe in God, but there is so much assurance in the next few underlines:

And Jesus believed. And he believes for me. He believes even when we cannot. He prays even when we cannot. We participate in his faith.

Christ lives in me, and I live by his faith.

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