This is a reflection on the way we view suffering. Not current news.
Buddhism. At the core is the attempt to make one’s self moral in order to escape suffering. The Buddha had many moral requirements that practicing Buddhists need to follow in order to reach nirvana. So the goal of Buddhism is to be moral to avoid suffering. In Nirvana the very person disappears since the very self is a delusion so to end suffering – the self must go as well. So the goal is a self-righteousness. Buddhism seeks to love – but the purpose of love is to perfect the moral quality of the person on their journey to nirvana. In other words – love has a basically self-focused goal. Yet, it is interesting that while the goal is to avoid suffering – love always suffers.
What is God’s goal? Why creation in the first place?
The whole Goal of God is for us to live with him. Right from the beginning of the Bible we see that Goal – we are created in the image of God – able to live with him. God walks with us in the Garden – able to live with him. Enoch was taken from the world without dying because he walked with God and God took him. Abram’s promise was that God himself would be his reward. This theme – that God wants our fellowship – is though the whole story of the Bible. People worship idols and forsake God. The Israelites escape Egypt through the power of Yahweh and yet, even with his physical presence in the form of a pillar of cloud and fire, they still rebel against him rejecting both his law and his person. The Ten Commandments begin with “I am Yahweh who brought you out of Egypt out of the house of bondage.” The ten commandments are the necessary actions of a person who wants to live in the presence of Yahweh, not simply good rules to live by, or even the laws of a nation. The children of Israel cannot live in Yahweh’s presence and disobey these commands. Again – the goal is for us to live with HIM.
In Southeast Asia it is a common idea that all suffering is the result of a person’s bad actions. The ordinary Buddhist understanding of suffering as evidence of wrong – karma – is not accurate. In fact even the Buddha taught people to love.
God uses the suffering of love to shape our character to be like his own character. For example, God gives us work to do so that we can be creative and form things in a useful and good way. Then we reflect the very nature of God who was also creative building on what was good (water) to make something even better (dry land). This ability to form a new thing by true effort, hard work and creativity makes physical suffering a servant for our character development. We can cooperate with God to use the abilities given us by God to show our love for God and our love for others or we can use those same abilities for selfish self-centered reasons. Our character is both developed and revealed by the work we do. Love suffers when it helps others. Suffering comes because it takes effort (suffering) to assist another when they need help. This is true if the help is in a team working for a goal. This is true if the help is at work earning a living. This type of suffering occurs in every human expression of love for another. Even our love for God requires a form of suffering as we forgive other’s sin against us.
Perhaps one reason that God works through prayer is because it brings a relational connection between a person, God and another person or event. That is to say that the very idea of prayer is that we are connected to the world and to other people THROUGH God. This was His goal from the beginning that we would work with him and through him and with others and through others. Each person being given a set of abilities and circumstances that allow them to be useful in a particular way. So that in prayer – we are able to help others become more like Jesus Christ God’s son our brother and the captain of our salvation. We literally touch them in prayer. This is why the Apostles prayed for all the saints.
In all of Scripture God’s goal is for us to live with Him. He not trying to make us a good person, or to be moral – to be acceptable against some set of laws or rules. These are two very different goals and motivations. To live with someone for a long time we must be compatible. Our character, our behavior and attitudes will help us toward a close friendship. We don’t have to have similar preferences, these can vary widely. We don’t have to have similar skills or similar capacities – these can vary widely. We need to have mutual acceptance, mutual respect and mutual love. We need a character that can sustain the relationship for the time necessary. So that for a short relationship or a shallow relationship – not much character is needed. The longer the relationship and the deeper the relationship the more relational character is needed. This is true in all of life. I might be cheated in a one time purchase and decide not to return to that store. The relationship does not build because the seller does not have character. In the same way, I might receive a service or good and not pay for it. The seller will not trust me in a future transaction and refuse to do business again. If I have a girl friend or boyfriend and I insult them they might stay for a short time but if I do this again and again it is not likely we will marry.
Every command in Scripture is built on this idea of trust. Even the strange commands in Leviticus like not having clothing of two kinds shows that the Israelites are Yahweh’s people – HIS people who are not like anyone else in the world. Many of the commands are designed to make the people of God stand out as a different and unique culture so that those who wanted to join them had much more than circumcision to set them apart – they had a whole different culture and appearance to take on. Their love relationship with God cost them something – it required a choice to be different than the surrounding nations. Without this type of choice the actual focus of our love is never revealed. We must have a special identity in our relationship with someone or we are not truly intimate with that person. As we conform to or obey the requirements of the relationship we build trust between the parties.
Long term relationships depend on trust.
How do we build trust with God? God is Holy – so we must be holy to live with him for an eternity. “You have eternal life” has to do with the character of the life – the quality of the life. We now possess the type of life that will carry us through eternity as friends of God – as children of God. It is not that we possess everlasting existence – that is given to everyone sinner and saint in the resurrection – eternal life is the type of character that will enable us to be intimate friends with God forever. This is the key to Holiness. We must become like God to live with him! This is the Goal of God – the focus of Salvation.
The HOPE of the Buddhist is to be a moral person so they can escape the suffering of karma and the cycle of reincarnation.
The HOPE of the Christian is to become like Christ so we can live in peaceful joy and satisfaction with HIM forever. The Bride of Christ!