Robin raised a valid point in her comment, which was that no matter why evil things come to pass in our lives, that it does not excuse those who commit sin, or who abuse. I of course agree. My earlier Un-Blog was dealing with balancing God’s justice, love and power with the apparent injustice that eats us bite by bite in mortality. It does highlight one further point, which is that only Jesus Christ could be our judge, because only He knows the full story of mortality.
I tried to find a story I once read about a certain beggar, but did not succeed. Perhaps one of you will remember the source. I’ll present it as a parable.
A rich man passed a certain beggar on the street for many years. For most of those years he was repelled and walked past without looking. After a long time he actually got to know the man, learned his story bit by bit and felt compassion. He began giving to him a little, and then he gave generously until the beggar died. The rich man continued to become a great philanthropist. When the rich man went to heaven he was again introduced to the beggar, who turned out was a dear friend of his from their lives before earth. The friend had agreed to be a constant lesson by living the life of a beggar, so that the rich man’s heart would eventually be softened and he would overcome the pride and judgmental heart and reach the full bloom of his own worth. He was there in heaven because of the life of the beggar. For the part of the beggar, he was exalted because he performed his agreed-to role in mortality.
I do not believe that God commissions people to abuse others, to enact crimes or start wars. These are the acts of men and women misusing their agency.
There are three other reasons things happen in mortality which we need to consider in order to get the full story on mortality.
The First reason is because God grants to mankind their agency, and He does not interfere in most cases. God declared “gave I unto man his agency” in the garden of Eden. (Moses 7:32). The beginning breath of agency was when Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane so that He could be “In all and through all things, the light of truth.” (D&C 88:3). Here then “is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning [the light of Christ] is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” (D&C 93:31)
We possess agency because we perceive that there is right and wrong, and opposition operates in all things. (2 Nephi 2) We are free to do according to our own will, (Mosiah 2: 21) and act according to our own will. (Alma 12:31)
Agency inherently acts upon everything around us, even people. When we serve another, they are blessed by no culpability or claim of their own. When we pray with faith for someone, they receive blessings they did not request. In other words, agency gives us the ability to call down blessings other people don’t deserve. This is called grace, and we receive grace from God, measured out to us according to the grace we deliver to our fellow man. (D&C 93:20)
The darker side of agency is that we can dispense unearned tribulation upon one another when we misuse our agency. We can hurt and damage and destroy by no culpability or act of our victims. This is the opposite of grace, let us call it cruelty, and when we dispense cruelty, we receive cruelty for cruelty, just as the laws of God dispense grace for grace.
At times it may seem unjust of God to hold the agency of man inviolate, and not intervene when bad things happen just because someone chooses it. If God intervened every time to inhibit a bad act, our agency would disappear, and God would quite literally cease to be God. (Alma 42:13) But, God has a greater plan, which sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins if we would but repent, and if we do not, then the justice of God acts upon the sinner in the day of Judgment to claim full payment. (Alma 42:13-16). The sinner is punished after the day of repentance is past, and the victim is healed through the grace of Christ in the very moment that they yield to Him and give up anger, resentment and retribution in favor letting God repay. Their immediate blessing is peace and healing. (Romans 12:19; Mormon 3:15) He admonishes us, “Leave judgment alone with me, for it is mine and I will pay.” And when we do, He promises, “Peace be with you; my blessings continue with you.” (D&C 82:23) When we are acted upon unrighteously in a trial that is not foreordained for us to experience, we are given “power to overcome all things which are not ordained of [God].” (D&C 50:35)
The second reason we may encounter bad things in mortality is because we make poor decisions, thus misusing our own agency. This should seem obvious, but it bears stating. There is a consequence to sin which endures in most cases even after we repent. If someone gets pregnant out of wedlock by their choice, even when they repent and are fully forgiven, there is still a child to raise. Someone can rob a store, and fully repent and be fully forgiven, but there is still time to serve in prison. The scenario gets worse when we don’t repent, when we don’t learn, and when we willfully choose to escalate to greater acts of disobedience to God’s will.
The last reason we may encounter bad things is because the mere fact of mortality makes us subject to the mortal world. When the winds blow, they blow upon the righteous and the wicked. When the floods come, when the sun rises or sets, or when the ground shakes, it shakes for all of God’s children. (Matthew 5:45) There is a certain random unfairness to mortality, which actually makes it just. Justice demands that God treat each of his children equally, which means that as long as the rain falls upon both wicked and righteous, it is just.
Here’s the great advantage we hold in these matters as people of faith. God makes it rain equally upon our heads – unless we can ask Him in faith to do otherwise. This is the domain of faith, that it has the power to mitigate the random acts of mortality. It is just of God to reward our faith, because he rewards all faith equally, wherever it arises. So, while it is raining upon the wicked, our faith has the power, if we righteously apply it, to turn aside the deluge.
Next on the Un-Blog: Prayers, Priesthood blessings and Justice
© February 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.