Scripture References – Isaiah 50:4-9; Luke 19:28-40
One of the lies we tell children in our culture is that if they are “good” and do what is “right” then they will not be hurt. This principle is true at first, when stated as a way to get them to keep hands off hot stoves, but we never get around to tell them that the application is limited. No, we let them go on thinking that the same principle applies in broader relational and spiritual spheres as well. We let them believe that if they are honest and tell the truth, good will always come to them. When they become older, we lead them to believe that if they speak out and stand up for what is morally acceptable, both heaven and earth will smile on them. We tell them that if they will take our advice about which good paths to follow, they will be able to move through life virtually unscathed by forces of evil and persons who see life differently than they do; even by their enemies. We tell them in the church that if they will always do what God wants them to do, they will be shielded by God’s protective care.
So in essence, we lie to our children, and one of the reasons we lie to them about this matter in particular is that, though we know better, we don’t want to believe differently ourselves. We keep wanting to believe that if we simply do the right thing and act in a Christian manner, everything will be all right. Whatever would hurt or frighten us will go away. While our reluctance to deal squarely with the facts is understandable, we are not doing ourselves or our children any favors with our coverups.
Because we lie to them, children become adolescents and then they progress to adults who are naive enough to believe in this kind of fairy-tale world. Many of us were those children who became adults still trying to live in make-believe. Somebody told us—somebody we trusted—that if we would be careful to do the right things, we’d be happy, be safe, prosper, and not get hurt. When the negative, unfortunate, painful, and tragic invaded our lives, the only conclusion we could draw was that we had done something wrong, but for the life of us we didn’t know what it was. We all know that lonely feeling, don’t we?
“What is it? What did I do to deserve what is happening to me?” After the exhausting inventory of personal performance is taken time after agonizing time, and we find no great lapses of moral degradation or sinful rebellion, we are left with no recourse but to turn on ourselves as inherently evil, those who have told us the lies, or even God for not delivering what we mistakenly believe has been promised. By this point in our lives, we are rarely capable of questioning the formula we have memorized: “Good deeds keep bad things away from us and bring only good to us.” Isn’t that it? Isn’t that the “truth” we deliver? “Good deeds keep bad things away from us and bring only good to us.”
For those who mature emotionally and spiritually without that kind of catastrophe, a kind of crisis of suffering which blows away our formula leaving nothing in its place, there is still a painful process of observing that “being good” and “doing good” will not always bring us good. There is no honest argument for pursuing a moral way of living, yes a Christlike way of living based on some presumption that good living wards off bad. Life just doesn’t work that way. We may be meticulous in doing what is ethically appropriate and Christlike in most every situation that confronts us only to be overtaken by events and circumstances that are anything but good. Some reward, huh?
At some point we have to come to the vital realization that suffering is not given out by the supernatural forces in the universe which have chosen us as unsuspecting and unfortunate victims. Suffering is common to humanity, and a good deal of suffering which we must endure has nothing to do with our religious commitments or the lack of them. As Walt Whitman worded it in his poem of universal human experience, Song of Myself:
“Agonies are one of my changes of garments.”
Being good people, being God’s obedient people, does not remove us from the plight of being human—with all its joys and all its pitfalls.
To Be Continued