James 1: 13 – 15
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
At the time of any tragedy, natural or man-made, sooner or later the Christian may well hear the accusation “And where was God when this was happening?” Indeed, in Auschwitz the Jewish inmates led by some of their Rabbis staged a trial in which God was tried for deserting his people. Contrary to popular belief the verdict wasn’t guilty but, according to Elie Wiesel who participated, the word used in the verdict was Chayav which means “He owes us something” after the verdict all participants went to pray.
More recently as the full horror of the Jamie Bulger murder emerged voices said why didn’t God do something to protect the wee boy? In the course of the trial it transpired that no less than 28 people had seen the two leading Jamie to his death but had for whatever reason (and I am not blaming them) decided to do and say nothing at the time.
We cannot when we do something wrong turn and say it’s God’s fault because he tempted me, sorry but God never tempts anyone to evil. James says that here, and countless others through the centuries have borne witness to that simple fact too. If we do blame God for tempting us into sin we are saying that God is cruel, doesn’t love us and created sin for his own sadistic pleasure, that surely runs counter to every experience we have of God.
We even manage to make excuses for ourselves, remember Burns’ Holy Willie and how in his prayer he confesses that he has had “improper relations” with Leezie’s lass, but says it’s not entirely his fault for he was drunk (or fou) at the time otherwise he would not have touched her! In the Garden of Eden, Adam blames Eve and Eve in turn blames the serpent but both know they were responsible alone for eating the fruit.
James makes it clear we have to take responsibility for our own actions and their ultimate consequences. We, like James, know we have a forgiving and loving father who will take our sins from us and bestow untold forgiving love upon us not because we deserve or have earned it but because he loves us.
Remember the old Chinese saying or fable; ‘A man says my good nature and my evil nature are like two tigers constantly fighting within me for control of my actions. And which one wins? asks the observer. Whichever one I feed the most comes the admission’.
The Rabbis of Auschwitz decided God owed them something for the suffering and destruction they endured, but it wasn’t God who inflicted that suffering upon them but even in the depths of that depravity God’s love shone through as in the Prayer of Ravensbruk.
Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will also those of ill will. But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us. Remember the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this. And when they come to judgement, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.
God does not owe us, but we owe him our repentance and desire to do better.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, we must bring you pleasure at times, but we must also break your heart too. We know we are forgiven for Jesus paid the price of our sin, but help us to live free of sin and in the righteous light of your love.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,