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Is God just?

March 16th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I have a friend in his mid 50’s who has come to Christianity in the last 12 years, He has a hard time resolving how God treated certain people groups in the Five Books of Moses and the Prophets Bible that were destroyed or killed by God’s command.I have tried talking to him about the sovereignty of God and the Protection of God’s people, but he still struggles with it.

He believes God was unjust. A new perspective from you would help greatly. 

Thanks,

∼ Robert W.

Answer:

Dear Robert,

Why go so far back? Isn’t it unjust when a baby is born with a painful disability or when some are born into free and wealthy countries while others are born to areas where repression and starvation threaten? We understand that your friend might try to distinguish between God commanding that the enemies of Israel be killed and innocent children suffering and dying.  However, there really is not much of a difference is there? Nothing happens without His say so.  After all, for an omnipotent God, commanding something very visibly is not that much different from invisibly directing that a particular child should suffer. Is your friend fine with what he sees around him today?

Abraham certainly wasn’t. He argued vehemently with God concerning the destruction of Sodom. However—and this is key—he accepted God’s final ruling. The bottom line is that God defines justice. If we see God’s acts as unjust, that is a challenge to us, not to God.

Only God sees the future and the whole picture, not we humans. In the unfolding of God’s plans He sometimes commanded that entire nations be wiped out. We struggle with His plan allowing the extermination of millions of Jews in Hitler’s death camps.  We don’t understand it, but we accept that it is part of God’s justice.

It certainly makes it difficult that God doesn’t speak to us as He did to Abraham or Moses. We are left trying as best we can to follow what He wants. Through the ages, due to the frailty and corruptibility of humans, this has sometimes resulted in terrible acts committed in God’s name. However, the great movements that have resulted in the most good for the most people, including the founding of America and the abolition of slavery, have stemmed from people attempting to follow God’s will. A cursory view of history will show that when human beings try to define justice or to make God in their image, calamity often follows.

Your friend is right to struggle with understanding God. A quote that hung in one of my (Susan’s) classrooms in high school read, “We shall never find God in this life — that is what makes life tragic. But to stop searching for God, that makes life meaningless.”

Contentment is for cows, not humans,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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