I have often struggled over the fact that some people are born into much better circumstances, to say the least, than others. This is true in a good number of ways taking in the whole person: physically, mentally, socially, morally, spiritually. From slums to dangerous streets to isolated jungles, etc., there is no shortage of danger to humans. Add to that even certain problems in the most wealthy of neighborhoods and one gets the sense that there is no safe place to live, period. Enter into this the teaching in scripture of God’s providential care.
John Calvin and Calvinism in one of its better aspects, I say, grapples seriously with this subject, and sees God’s sovereignty as a factor in all of this. Chalk it up to that, do what you can, and don’t be dismayed. God’s providential care is definitely a part of this. As Jesus reminds us, the Father is even aware when one sparrow perishes, and he knows the number of hairs on our head, so we’re not to be afraid: we’re worth more than many sparrows.
What I struggle with is not so much being exposed to the problems myself, but being part of a system which passes on the problems to others, by and by. I know that in loving our neighbor as ourselves, we simply do what we can and go on. Sometimes there’s not much we can do. Or we hit a dead end and have to live with what is less than ideal or perhaps even desirable.
That is when I have to take note of the transitory nature of this existence, indeed the brokenness, and in the terms of theology and from scripture, fallenness of this existence. It is not what it is supposed to be in this old creation in contrast to the story of the idyllic garden of Eden in Genesis. This old creation was not made as the end all, but only the precursor or prelude to the new creation. The hope of the Christian faith is that all that we are up against now, is actually transitory. That a new creation which even now has broken in through Christ is destined to take over and indeed change the world.
Where does that leave us, though, in terms of where we have to live now? And as important, if not more, what we pass on to others? And where does God’s providential care factor into this? I see no easy answers here. Note the book of Job, and particularly God’s answer in the end along with the aftermath. Not sure that really settles the matter in ways we would like to see. In fact we can look at life ourselves and see just how uneven it is, even in our own neighborhoods, churches, yes, even families. It just doesn’t seem like justice is dispensed evenly. And in fact too often injustice seems to rule the day. Or at least some form of what we would consider to be unfair. Our sense or vision of what is ideal or should be is inevitably shattered.
Again, we have to return to God, to God’s care, to the temporary nature of our current existence, and to the promise of the new world to come. We can’t escape the problems of this life, nor shield others from them. We can do our best to lessen the danger for others, but we must learn to trust God to work his good, even in this brokenness, yes- even through it. Knowing that there is a new world in Jesus in God’s kingdom come in which God will right all wrongs (put all things to right- N. T. Wright) and make all things new. Until then, we willingly live in this good yet provisional world, entrusting ourselves, our lives, and the lives of others into God’s hands and mercy. Together in this in Jesus for the world.