Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Photo compliments of Fergal of Claddagh

It’s a “P.R.” Problem

A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.
Proverbs 19:3

The problem with free will, it really isn’t free. Free is a misnomer in this case; it implies autonomy to make decisions, which we have. It doesn’t mean our choices won’t have consequences. When things go well, we readily accept the credit. When things blow up in our face, we drag out the spin doctors and look for a scapegoat. One easy target to shift blame onto is God. If only He’d done something, life wouldn’t have gone to hell in a hand basket.

The question “where was God” asked in relation to a tragic event is usually a thinly veiled accusation that His lack of intervention is the real root of the problem. Without firsthand knowledge straight from the perpetrator of the crime, drawing conclusions concerning motive is pure speculation. Perhaps God did try to intervene and was ignored; it wouldn’t be the first time.

Genesis 4 recounts the familiar story of Cain, Abel and the first recorded cold blooded murder of history. Why Cain killed Abel is baffling. Abel hadn’t done anything wrong or harmed his brother in any way. His only mistake was offering his sacrifice correctly.  Often overlooked is the interaction between God and Cain in verses six and seven before the murder. God gave warning that Cain’s unjustified anger directed at Abel would bring serious consequences if left unchecked. Since God saw what loomed on the horizon, why didn’t He stop Cain from killing Abel? Free will.

Proverbs 22:5 says that “thorns and snares” litter the path of the wicked and, if we’re smart, we’ll take a different route. Cain had a “P.R. Problem”, not public relations but a personal responsibility problem. When confronted by God after the murder, Cain refused any responsibility for his actions and showed no remorse. His response…he complained. My punishment is more than I can bare,” verse thirteen (emphasis mine). Cain accused God of being unreasonable and harsh. He conveniently forgot that short of physical restraint God did everything to dissuade Him from committing the crime.

British businessman and economist Josiah Charles Stamp said, “It’s easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of our responsibilities.” This is true, but that hasn’t stopped us from trying to avoid the repercussions of our actions. It’s fashionable to adopt a victim mentality and to shift the blame to someone or something else. Exploring “why” things happen is beneficial. Understanding “why” provides a reasonable explanation but not a good excuse. Why not? Free will provides us the opportunity to respond differently. The choice is always ours.

When Cain killed Abel God responded with love not condemnation or rejection. However, He refused to excuse Cain’s actions and held him accountable. Even with a promise for physical protection for his own life, Cain got mad and “went out from the presence of the Lord”, verse sixteen. He ran rather than accept responsibility.

Unfortunately, from almost day one, men have used violence directed at each other as a means of conflict resolution. Cain’s action was replicated by one of his descendents. A few verses down in Chapter 4 we meet Lamech. He killed a man and bragged about it. Lamech boasted of being avenged seventy seven times. Ironically, Jesus, in Matthew 18:21-22 spoke of forgiving the same person on the same day seventy times seven if necessary.

Humanity has had a “P.R. Problem” from the beginning. Adam blamed God and Eve. Eve blamed the serpent and so on. We want modified free will, something that lets us have our cake and eat it too. We wish to do as we please minus any negative repercussions. This is folly and Proverbs 19:3 warns that folly will ruin our life. When God “butts into our business” He’s not trying to spoil our fun but to get us to a higher, greater level. He has an upgrade for us. Even though it means our feelings and emotions won’t enjoy the satisfaction that comes with getting our own way, listening and heeding God’s timely prompts will prevent those pesky “P.R. Problems” in our lives.

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