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Childhood Gods

Oct 5, 2007, Wausau, Wi  In many  respects, there is nothing like the simple faith of a child, so uncomplicated, so pure.  Like their faith, a child’s view of God is so simple and straightforward. Jesus, recognized this when he said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (MT 19:14)

But like so many things that are beautiful about childhood,  their desirability declines with age.  While a young child trying to recite John 3:16 as “only forgotten Son” may bring a smile, the older the child is, the less humorous is such a mistake.    The innocence that is so wonderful in a child, in an adult becomes an sad naiveté.

It is the same with our understanding of God. While we are the children of God, and should humble ourselves like children, as we grow, so should our understanding.  The apostle Paul recognized this when he told the Corinthians “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Cor 13:11)  He went on to say, “Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” (1 Cor 14:20 ) 

While a child like view of God may be admirable in a child, or even in a new Christian, such a view in an older Christian is a indication of a lack of maturity and growth.  More importantly, it is spiritually dangerous.

This is because children should lead a sheltered life where they do not have to confront things until they are ready. In fact I would argue that one of problems today is that children are exposed too far too much too early, and that we as a society would be much better if we let children be children.

But a child’s view of God can leave one ill equipped to face the real world. A childlike view of God say that if I just believe and am good then God will bless me and my life will go smoothly. There is some truth to this.  If we have faith in God, and follow His commandments, God will bless us, the first and biggest blessing be the salvation.

But like so many truths we learned as children, as we grew up we found that things were not always as simple as we once believed.  While God will bless our faithfulness, that does not mean we will receive the blessing immediately, or that bad things will never happen to us.

The belief that  “If I believe and follow God commandments I will be blessed”  often becomes, if things are not going well, there is no blessing, and if there is no blessing , then that is a sign that there is a problem, a sign of a lack of faith, or an indication of sin.  Again like most false beliefs, there is a grain of truth in this. Sometimes God does withhold His blessing because of a lack of faith, or sin. 

The problems is that this is not always the case.  Just consider the persecution some Christians have suffered for their faith. Can we really say that if Peter or Paul had simply had more faith, or had sinned less, they would not have be crucified by the Romans?  How about all those who suffered persecution down through the ages, or who suffer persecution today?  Is their suffering an indication that God is dissatisfied with them?  Hardly. 

The simple fact is that bad things do happen to good people.  Those who faithfully trust and follow God still come down with fatal illnesses,  are involved in auto accidents, are robbed, or murdered, or suffer the loss of a loved one, or even a child. 

When tragedy strikes, it is quite natural and even proper to ask “Why God?” But for some, tragedy sadly results in more than just the question of why; but it becomes a crisis of faith.  This is because people find it impossible to reconcile their view of God, with their suffering.  ‘Why would a loving God have allowed this to happen to me?”    

Basically there are only three ways to answer that question.  The first is that the tragedy happened because there is no God to prevent it. Not too surprisingly such an answer results in a loss of faith.  The second is that a loving God wouldn’t have allowed it, and therefore God is not loving. This answer results in anger at God, which leaves one separated from God.

However, the third way does not question God, either His existence or His love, but ultimately questions our view of God. It is to struggle with God, to seek an answer, and ultimately results in deeper understanding of God and thus a deeper faith.  A faith that is not based on childlike view of God, but on a deeper understanding of who God is, not a God whom we challenge in difficult times, but one whom we can seek comfort in.

This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

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