Franciscan Spirit Blog

Franciscan Inspirations: God Doesn’t Punish

man looking at a valley | Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Over the centuries, changes in culture have affected the way believers—even the Church—view God. That is because it is natural for us to project human flaws and weaknesses directly onto God, as absurd as that must seem.

It is common for religious people to attribute natural disasters as a punishment by God for sins. If that’s true, then God’s aim is off target because it’s usually the innocent who suffer rather than the guilty. Why are the millions of innocent refugees that we see in the Middle East suffering so terribly instead of the dictators who caused it all?

We must realize that God created humanity in a perfect state. It is humanity that causes chaos. There is no question that God gives us the grace to be good and avoid sin. God never denies help. But at the same time, God never pushes or violates human freedom. Why? It is the gift of freedom that allows humanity to love. Unfortunately, sinful humans can also cause suffering to their brothers and sisters. God sees the possibility of love as more important than the possibility of evil. Remember, with no free will, humans would be animals. Evil in the world is humanity’s doing.

Salvation in God

In the Old Testament, when the Israelites strayed from God’s commands, it was not God who zapped them with a lightning bolt. Rather, it was the Jewish leadership that became weak and corrupt. When that happened, they were easy targets for neighboring tribes. In other words, God did not send the Israelites into exile. They were taken there because they were easy prey for Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king. They punished themselves.

Think about the current situation in the United States. From everything that we see in the news, it seems that we as a society are in the midst of a moral crisis—perhaps not unlike those in the Old Testament. There is an increase in violence toward children, women, and the unborn; a growing philosophy of “me-first” at any cost; corruption among those with power and influence; and, finally, a lack of interest in those who are vulnerable. It has been said that the true criterion for a civilization is how it takes care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

What appears to be happening is not so much that society is setting itself up for God’s punishment. Rather, if the trends continue as they are, our society will collapse from internal corruption and self-destructive acts. If we throw out God’s basic commandments forbidding murder, lying, stealing, and sexual immorality, what happened in the Old Testament will likely happen within our own society.

Some might look up to God and ask why. Actually, our society should look at itself and say, “Well, of course! How could we not have known this would happen?” God’s grace cannot be cast aside without some negative result. That’s been proven since the beginning of humankind.

God's Love Song

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