"... what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 18. 18
As the sun comes up on another beautiful summer's day, the roads remain quiet and the beaches are empty, the only cloud on the horizon may be a twinge of guilt. When one thinks of the suffering in war-torn countries like Yemen, now ravaged by Coronavirus. Or the violence that has erupted on our own streets, as an expression of unresolved anger over generations of discrimination. Of course we have our problems too. Whether your livelihood depends on the hospitality industry or your progress in education has been stalled, few can say this is a time for rejoicing. But in the greater scheme of things...?
Why do some people seem to have all the luck and others face a truncated life of toil and danger? And, if we find ourselves nearer the favourable end of the providence spectrum, should we feel guilty? If we do, what should we do about it?
Jesus made it clear that God is not vindictive and does not operate vindictively. In other words God does not manipulate circumstances to punish some more than others. God made a good world and he made it well. The Bible makes sense of the mess we are in by explaining how it is the product of sin, our wilful disregard for the parameters God established in the Garden of Eden and then again on the verge of the Promised Land and much later in the teachings of the New Testament.
Our inability to live accordingly to these parameters is what brought Jesus into the world and took him to the cross. These are the highlights of the grand narrative of scripture. But the Bible is consistently clear that God's desire is that our response is not confined to guilt - or even dominated by guilt. Rather that it should stir within us an eruption of gratitude, a repudiation of our addiction to sin and a new and overwhelming desire to live faithfully, expressed in love of God and love for our fellow human beings (our neighbour).
Another insight, for which we have the Bible to thank, is that God equips his faithful people to flourish whatever their predicament. That is what enabled the apostle Paul to declare in his letter to the Philippians (4.11): "I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances."
Who knows what a day will bring but, making sense of what may seem like a random series of reflections, it is the Lord's will that we occupy it faithfully. If our back is against the wall, that might be about simply getting through without causing harm and digging deep in our prayers. Or, from a position of relative ease, it might be about using our options to champion the cause of those who cannot speak out for themselves. Whatever our situation, what counts is that we trust God and obey his call on our lives.