Does God Punish People?

I witnessed something that struck a chord somewhere very deep inside of me. To give a broad picture, it was a very emotional unveiling of challenges that an old couple are facing. It brought up some thoughts that were the topic of a conversation I had with my sister a couple of days ago- which is the topic of this post. As I write this, I have no definite answer, or opinion. I’ll just explore what I believe to be facts and take it from there.

Before I go on, let me make it clear that my views are generally what I would call “absolutist” and “extremist”. The latter I use with a bit of caution- in the sense that I don’t mean extremist I-want-to-blow-up-something, but extremist there-are-no-greys-only-black-and-white.

Let me start with what I consider to be the facts:
1. God is irrefutable and unquestionable (Job 38)
2. God is loving (Psalm 118, I John 4:16)
3. God is good (Psalm 34:8,Mark 10:18)
4. God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Romans 3:5)
5. People mess up (Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23)

Now, just looking at the abovementioned facts, I think you would agree with me that there is some apparent conflict. This conflict, the average non-believer will home in on and exploit straightaway. If God is loving, He is therefore, forgiving, merciful, and full of grace. So, when you err, and ask for forgiveness, He will overlook it and all is well in the world (Psalm 51:1 actually points to this. But I don’t think it quite applies. The Psalm was written by David after his murderous mistake, and the consequences did not pass him by. I guess it was just a plea on his part).

On to my scriptural context: Exodus 20:5, 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9-10; Deuteronomy 28; Ezekiel 18; Romans 3:22-26. Please, take time to read though them, and share any more you discover.

At this point, I want to do a bit of disambiguation. When I say punishment, I mean someone does something wrong (knowingly or not) by a particular set of standards, and therefore has to face some (usually unfavourable) events. I could call these events consequences, but I am wary of doing that. Why? I want to separate the notion of punishment from that of consequence. Consequence, here, being an outcome that is a direct result of an event or set of events. What is the exact relationship between punishment and consequences? Are they the same thing? Hold the thoughts. Here, I move on to laws. Stay with me.

I will consider laws of nature and the justice law of man (referring to courts, judges and that whole system generally). Starting with nature, there are certain irrefutable laws of nature: gravity, motion laws, and the rest. Take this scenario: I push something off a cliff. What happens? It falls off. Not that that is the automatic conclusion; because it could be that it was something very heavy, and my push wasn’t hard enough, so it doesn’t budge, or my foot slips and I fall off instead; a variety of possibilities really (an interesting read on this is Ted Dekker’s book, Blink). But let us assume that it falls off. Supporting this outcome are the law of gravity, and Newton’s first law of motion. Now, I will call the fall of the object a consequence. But take as an instance, that the object was very precious to me, and is now lost to me forever. Is its fall a punishment for my act of pushing? Let me bring in the “knowingly or not” clause here. Let me make a proposal here. If the push was intentional, then the fall can be called a punishment; and if it was a mistake of some kind, it can be called a consequence?

Which brings me to the justice law of man (I couldn’t quite figure out what to call it). In the law, ignorance is no excuse. I think this is the general stand of all justice courts worldwide (not a 100% sure, correct me if I’m wrong). So, if I do something, whether I know it is wrong or not, as long as it is wrong according to their standards and regulations, I am liable to receive the maximum sentence applicable. Now, I go back to the scenario, I push something of a cliff. It was not intentional. Pause. Here, I would like to further categorise the types of ‘not intentional’. It could be unintentional, in the sense that, I am aware I pushed it but I did not mean to push it. Or, it could be that I was not even aware that I pushed it, but something in my actions caused it to be pushed. No matter the precedent, I acted, and because of my actions the object fell off the cliff. According to the justice law, I am liable for punishment if there is anything in the law saying pushing things off cliffs is wrong. Another example of this is the relatively new hand ball rule in football/soccer. Hand ball (trying to control the ball with your hands) is a foul in the sport. The rule pretty much says that whether you intentionally try to manipulate the ball with your hands, or the ball happens to hit your hand in the course of play (hand-to-ball or ball-to-hand), in both instances, you have committed a foul.

From all said, I would now like to highlight three separate consequence/punishment situations.
1. I know I did something but did not know it was wrong
2. I did something but did not realise it, but what I did caused something else
3. I knew full well the import of my action, but did it anyway
All situations will lead to consequences. It is the law of nature, the law of man, and I also believe it is the law of God (Ezekiel 16:58). What I’m still not sure about is if these consequences should be called punishments or it they are just natural outcomes arising from events.

Here, I will propose two categories of consequences:
• Consequences governed by the laws of nature: These will (almost) always happen, there is little we can do about them
• Consequences imposed and regulated by an authority: The authority can be man or God, the consequences will vary, and can change.

So what exactly can I label as punishment? Let me evaluate another instance. A child does something wrong, and his/her parent decides to take a toy away from the child. Let me call the seizing of the toy a punishment. This punishment is not a consequence arising from natural laws. It a consequence created and imposed by the parent. A natural consequence may be the child grows up spoilt, and thus has no friends (just assuming). The seizing of the toy as a punishment is in response to the parent’s standard of wrong, and is measured out by what the parent considers to be equal in magnitude. This also the manner in which the justice law of man runs. Similar also is the way I believe God doles out His ‘punishment’- according to His standards, and in a measure He deems fit. The difference is, God’s standards and measures are perfect.

Now, let me make this personal. I was facing a particular issue, and I was convinced the deal was done, and my ‘punishment’ was at hand. In fact, I was resigned to it. I try to fight hard not to deceive myself and pull wool over my eyes. I shared it with my sister (this is the conversation I was referring to), and she said, “No, no, no, that’s the enemy talking.” In my reasoning, it’s very simple. As much as God is loving, the way I see it, there are consequences to every action, and as much as you have been forgiven, and your slate wiped clean, you will still have to live with those consequences. (I can already hear someone objecting)

To be frank, taking this view, can be very depressing. Because sometimes, this view on situations will create a feeling of hopelessness. I’ve been there (and back, thank God). And in stark contrast to this, God is NOT a God of hopelessness. Another fact (Psalm 65:5, Romans 5:2). So, in this, as in all things, God expects us to do the balancing act- to understand that we have to bear consequences, but that we also have exceeding great hope in Jesus, our Lord.

Before I wrap this up, I would like to address a regularly flogged topic which arose in my mind while writing this: the issue of bad things happening to good people, and bad people going scot-free. I take a slightly different view on this one (see Job 34:5- in fact, his whole story in general). First of all, on what basis and by whose standards are we qualifying these things and people as bad or good? But let’s leave that, it’s a separate topic for another day. What I’d really like to point out is that those supposedly good people, aren’t in actual fact ‘good’ for nothing. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” So, should it not follow, that a small mistake on a ‘bad’ person’s part would be considered a grave error when done by a ‘good’ person? After all, if s/he is good, s/he should know better. So s/he’s error will attract graver consequences in contrast to a bad person’s ‘punishment’ for doing the same thing (although I think it, even that is a hard pill for me to swallow). But Job’s story pretty much sinks this line of thought, God himself said Job was blameless (Job 1:8). Nevertheless, I still think my argument may still be valid in some instances. The thing is, God does not work according to formulas. No two situations and individuals are the same. No matter how small, there will always be nuances, hints, and whispers that will alter outcomes.

I am not God, so I cannot say for sure, but this is my opinion. Paul comes in and scatters my argument in Romans 3:25, claiming that some sins were left unpunished previously. But please read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and all the damning prophecies regarding the people of Israel- I would not call that sins going unpunished. No doubt, he was talking on some level that right now escapes my understanding. Feel free to help me step it up. Besides, in those same books (especially Ezekiel), The Lord Almighty proclaims their restoration.
The one conclusion I can come up with now is taken from the example of the great King David. After he had committed the adultery, after he had murdered the husband, after Nathan declared his punishment, after the love child died, He got up and went on with his life (2 Samuel 12:18-23).

My recommendation: what’s done is done, look up and move on.

And to encourage you, here’s some great music:

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12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave Poster from www.imdb.com

12 Years A Slave Poster from http://www.imdb.com

As far as I know, the enslavement of black people in the United States during the 19th century is one of the (if not the) most dehumanising occurrences in the history of mankind. Growing up, I had heard about it, read about it, been taught about it. But it’s weightiness never sank in until, believe it or not, I watched Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino. I know the film was not supposed to be some great homage to the sufferings of the black people. Indeed, there was a lot of emphasis on the action and humour of it. If I remember well, I came across an article where Mr Tarantino described it as a black western, or something along those lies. But watching that movie, for the first time, the stark reality of how utterly awful the whole debacle must have been really hit me. Which brings me to the topic of today: 12 Years a Slave.

On the train this morning, a newspaper was opened to a full page advert of 12 Years with four and five-star ratings scattered all over it on the table in front of me. I had heard of the movie when it was released in the festivals. I had even Wikipedia’d the story of Solomon Northup (whose story the film is based on). Looking at the newspaper, I thought, “This film must even be good, see stars all over it.” I got home later in the day, and my mum says she’s going to the movies to see 12 Years, and invites me to tag along. I decide to go, although I’m not sure I’m in the mood for the sadness, tears, and depression I expect the film will hold. I was not disappointed.

15 minutes into the film, I couldn’t eat my popcorn anymore (and let me tell you nothing stops me from eating my popcorn). It is appalling that such atrocities actually happened. You don’t get any more criminal against humanity than that. And some of these misdeeds were committed in the name of God Almighty. For me, the movie raised questions that I will probably never get the answers to in this lifetime. That it actually ever happened is unthinkable.

*spoilers from here on*

The victory of Solomon’s justice (being a freeman kidnapped into slavery, then regaining freedom after 12 years) is greatly overshadowed by the numerous other human beings that were legally slaves. That sadness eclipsed whatever joy I was supposed to feel over his release. At a point in movie, where Patsey was being flogged, I felt physically sick, I was so nauseated. At the end of the movie, when the credits came up, people in the cinema hall gave a round of applause. And I felt sick again. A round of applause? Really? Hadn’t they just watched they same thing I did? But I have calmed down now, and it has occurred to me that perhaps the applause was for a well-made movie. If it was for the eventual freedom of Solomon, I cannot share that joy. What is there to be happy about when hundreds of thousands more were condemned to the lives of animals? I mean, even animals weren’t treated that bad.

Lupita Nyong'o (Patsey) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon Northup) from www.slate.com

Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Solomon Northup) from http://www.slate.com

The movie itself was very well-done (not that I’m a film critic or anything). Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey) stole the show for me. Great ensemble cast (all-star cast) as well (ensemble casts seem to be in right now- August: Osage County, American Hustle, Out of the Furnace and co). There were points in the film that the English was a tad hard to follow, it was very King James-ish.

Lupita, Brad Pitt, Steve McQueen, Chiwetel, and Michael Fassbender form www.hollywoodreporter.com

Lupita, Brad Pitt, Steve McQueen, Chiwetel, and Michael Fassbender form http://www.hollywoodreporter.com

All in all, the slavery discourse is not one I can contribute much to. Just trying to read about it now has revealed the in-depth intricacies and complexities of the subject. I’m not sure if I should tell you to go see the movie, because if you’re like me, you will get very sad. It left me with a strong feeling of disquiet. On another hand, some guys got up all smiles in front of me, so it might not have been that bad. Either way, you should probably check it out; if only for an education on what life was like in those times. Also, you may want to read the original book by Solomon Northup, it shares the same title with the movie.

Xoxo

Sublime Instrumental

This is just one of many creations put together by my good friend, Oluwafemi “aka Drummerboi aka BlasTphemie” Onafowokan (he’s a music genius- and I wasn’t paid to write that ;-)). Was listening to some of my music -it’s been a while-, heard this and wanted to share.

First, I love the bass (as I have already established, I’m a bass lover ;-)). Second, the percussion is on point (genuine afro-beat). Lastly, it’s just… cool, smooth, sublime!. It’s not quite a full track, but it’s good listening anyway.

I love it (think you will too). Enjoy.

Why Don’t You Rely On HIM about it?

You’ve thought about it over and over. In fact, you’re thinking about it right now. You’ve talked about it. You’ve joked about it. You’ve worried about it. You’ve tried to plan around it. You’ve read about it. You’ve heard about it. You freaked out about it. You’ve even dreamt about it.

Why don’t you rely on God about it?

Francine and A Voice

20140104-023127.jpg

Recently, I’ve been making an attempt to reread books I once thought were great (books I read about 10 years ago), and trying to analyse how I feel about them now that I am ‘mature’ (so to speak). It’s turned out to be a great way to appraise and appreciate how I’ve changed over the years. Interestingly, quite a few of the books have been disappointing, they have fallen from the pedestals I had previously put them on. A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers is not one of them.

I first read this book when I about 11 or 12 years old, and I loved it. I’ll be honest, I mostly read it for the romance between Marcus and Hadassah (back then I was a romance fanatic). Now, I appreciate this book for so much more. The way Mrs Rivers presents the characters and their natures, you can almost reach out and touch them. Her message is clear, crystal, in fact.

Without a doubt Francine Rivers is one of the best authors that has walked the face of this Earth; and the fact that all her stories point to God is just beautiful, just perfect (permit me to be cheesy). Even if you like nothing else about the book, the sheer amount of research that must have gone into writing it, you must admire.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say it’s a wonderful story of love, betrayal, lust, forgiveness, family, friendship, mercy… Actually, this book probably encompasses every possible facet of humanity. Each paragraph, sentence, and word is powerful. I recommend it for every and any one.

Xoxo

Before You Go Natural 1

Before I cut my hair

Before I cut my hair

Going natural, in my experience, is great! The thing is, everybody experiences and approaches it in different ways. This is the first part of a series addressing questions that I think you should answer before going natural(before would be best, but you can ask yourself during/after as well, as a sort of evaluation/if you’ve already cut it). The first question is… watch the video 😉

Natural me!

Natural me!


By the way, it hasn’t been scientifically proven that cutting your hair makes it grow. So, you may want to reconsider cutting your hair if that’s your reason. 😉

I hope this is helpful.
Xoxo

It’s A New Year

Yup, another one has gone, and another is here. I am nothing short of grateful to God. It’s been a series of interesting experiences the past year. I chopped off my hair, moved for masters, had a tougher time adjusting than I thought I would. There was some emotional drama, new discoveries, and a great time with my family. All in all, God has been good! I look forward to what this new year will bring.

I wrote something at the start of last year (exactly a year today actually) and sent it to my closest friends. I think it still applies, and probably will every year. I’d like to share it here as well.

Everybody was hugging, congratulating each other, and wishing themselves “happy new year”. I stood in a kind of anti-climax bubble. So, this was it. This was the New Year, just like that. Time had not stopped to take a breath; there was no pause, no break. The second hand just kept on moving. This second of the year, being no different from all the others in the year, had moved as seamlessly into the next as is the custom (of seconds). We were still the same people, wearing the same clothes, standing in the same spots we had before the year had begun; the same people, a new year.

On the eve of the New Year a friend of mine asked what resolutions I had. I told him I had none. He responded, “There’s nothing you want to change?” I told him there was nothing I wanted to change, just things I wanted to improve on. I have never been big on resolutions. Why don’t they work? At least, they do not seem to work for me. By March, I have usually forgotten what I had resolved to do. While I stood in the midst of the crowd , things became a bit clearer to me.

As a new year begins, the person is still the same one who ended the year. I think we would all like to believe that all of a sudden we have become brand new creatures; but we are still the same. So the person with that habit, or the one who is tired of his/her situation, or whatever, is still the same. I have heard insanity being defined as doing the same thing the same way, again and again, expecting a different result. I think a lot of us fall into that category. Now, I’m not calling us insane, I’m just saying that we need to realise that doing the same things the same way will never yield the result we hope to see.

The situation, challenge, or habit will probably remain the same; you are still the same. So, we can be pretty sure there will be no change or improvement. The only way I believe we can make that change for sure is allowing ourselves to change, instead of waiting on the other thing to miraculously change, or go away or whatever. The only thing we have complete power over is our will; and we should make the best use of it.

We have the will to “change” ourselves, transform our minds, and our way of thinking. I believe this is where we all need God, because sticking to our resolution to make our resolutions happen is not easy at all. And we all, okay, let me speak for myself, I tend to be lazy and procrastinate. So, with His help and with our different approach to the challenge, we can overcome the situation and learn something new. Even if things don’t work out as planned, there is still room for change and adjustment, thank God. This New Year can be different, it can be better.

Have a great one, people!
Xoxo