suffering and the respect for life

Theological explanations for suffering can be ridiculous.

We just passed the one year anniversary of Japan’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear accident. But we still hear and read and experience suffering in all kinds of manifestations.

The suffering can be anything from some kind of horrible tragedy to something like chronic depression. It comes in all kinds of forms. Lately, I’m impressed with the suffering people for who they are… the suffering of being victims of racism and genocide. And other racisms, such as sexism… of women for being women or for gays for being gay… people suffering because of who they are.

Blessing the life in someone usually requires a deep respect for their uniqueness, an openness to allowing them to uncover who they are rather than shaping them into who we want or need them to be. We cannot strengthen someone and violate their integrity at the same time. Innately, blessing life confers a greater freedom on those we bless (Remen).

Those with a religious or spiritual agenda cannot appreciate the above quote. They would see it as too willy-nilly and permissive… even licentious.

I do not. I claim this is the only way to find peace in this world, harmony between us, and love overall.

In fact, I consider this is an excellent definition of a pastor.

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36 Responses

  1. Sean says:

    Love the quote

  2. Gary says:

    “In fact, I consider this is an excellent definition of a pastor.”

    It would be indeed David. I have not yet met one, but I would love to know one who gets it.

  3. Karin says:

    brilliant and so true!

    Thank you!

  4. marcie says:

    A huge key here. No good thing will come from the manipulation of another. But this way of being requires vulnerability and transparency?

  5. Connie says:

    You’re such an inspiration to me, David.

    There truly are good hearts in this world, with a love that is true, and you’re one of them.

    Thanks, Brother. 🙂


  6. Emily says:

    I get a little nauseous every time I hear a huge natural disaster causing death, injury, and destruction being equated with the wrath of God. I don’t like the parts of the Bible that tend toward that type of interpretation of events of their time. I used to think it was something wrong with me (the Bible’s inerrant, right?), but now I dare to criticize the Us vs. Them mentality (leading to an Our God vs. Them mentality) that underlies these passages.

  7. Luke says:

    Evil and Suffering are the rocks all systems crash upon. Paraphrase from Alfred North Whitehead.

  8. Ben says:

    I hope you are not disparaging Pat Robertson with your graph. I share 7/9-ths of a last name with him. I am sure the Japanese did something to bring this tragedy on themselves. Hello Kitty alone would justify God’s wrath.

    And respecting someone else’s uniqueness, that is just double-talk for multiculturalism. Onward Christian soldiers! Let’s use the disaster to reshape Japan into a Christian nation.

    Kidding… definitely kidding

    Thanks for the friendly reminder of the anniversary. It is so easy to forget that while Japan and Haiti were brief headlines in the US they will both take years or even decades to recover. Note to self: get out of the lazy-boy.

  9. ccws says:

    Shit happens. Too often that’s beyond our control. Arguing about why shit happens only diverts time and energy away from the thing all people of good will, regardless of their faith or nonfaith, should be concerned with, the thing all of us have some control over: what happens after shit happens. Where is God when shit happens? In the hands that get out the toilet paper, change the diaper, and help with the laundry.

  10. Steve Martin says:

    “In fact, I consider this is an excellent definition of a pastor.”

    I disagree.

    A pastor cannot just say, ‘go ahead and do whatever you want to do’.

    If there’s no sorrow for sin, then there’s no need of a Savior.

    Even Jesus (one definition of a pretty good pastor)said, “I don’t condemn you either…go and sin no more.”

  11. nakedpastor says:

    Well Steve, even as a Lutheran, you would have to disagree with yourself. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” is the essential of the faith. There need not be any sorrow or even recognition for sin for their to be forgiveness. It’s already given.

  12. marcie says:

    They know not!

  13. Steve Martin says:

    Of course they (we) are forgiven!

    But we are not given carte blanche to do whatever we want to.

    Even Lutherans who do not need to DO ANYTHING in order to be forgiven and or in order to be a Christian, know that there are Commandments that God would have us obey. Just because we do a crappy job of it, does not mean that we aren’t sorry about our self-obsessed, idolatrous life.

  14. nakedpastor says:

    Steve: i’m not saying that it’s wrong to be sorry. i’m saying that you would be hard pressed to prove that it is required for forgiveness.

  15. Steve Martin says:

    I love my kids. I forgive them whenever they do wrong. They might have to pay a price for whatever it was…but I forgive them, nonetheless.

    But that doesn’t mean that they can do anything they want in my home. No sex orgys. No meth labs. No gun running operation. No hiding of stolen goods. No prostitution business. Oh yeah…and no messing with my t.v. remote!

    Just to name a few things 😀

  16. Steve Martin says:

    It’s not required for forgiveness. But I still don’t want them doing all that stuff, and if I catch them, they had better knock it off.

  17. nakedpastor says:

    I understand steve. but you’re not thinking before you respond. Jesus, it is said, forgave his murderers in the act! according to some theologically, they were murdering god. their god. still forgiven.

  18. Steve Martin says:

    Yes, we are forgiven. But where we KNOW we have done wrong…we are sorry and ask for forgiveness…even though we already have it.

    That’s how it is with my wife and myself.

    We know that we will be forgiven…but we are still sorry and ask for forgiveness.

    Speaking of Jesus, which one did He say was justified (in the temple)? The Pharisee, who needed no forgiveness…or the scumbag tax guy who knew what a piece of work he was?

  19. marcie says:

    I love my self absorbed adultress life… Just wonder why you come here? To prove something to us or yourself? Are you really trying to teach? What?

  20. Steve Martin says:

    If there is no sin, there is no sorrow for sin. If there is no sorrow for sin, there is no need for forgiveness. If no forgiveness is needed then no Savior is needed. If no Savior is needed then we are on our own…forever.

    That wouldn’t be a good thing.

  21. Steve Martin says:

    I’m speaking to those who have ears to hear.

    I’m not trying to shoehorn anyone into anything.

    And, by the way, I will not be judging anyone here. I don’t even judge myself. (somebody famous once said that, and I think I know what he meant).

  22. Gary says:

    Steve you said…
    “A pastor cannot just say, ‘go ahead and do whatever you want to do’.”

    This is a simple straw man argument. None of us have promoted any such thing. The difference lies in WHY we seek to honor God. I don’t try to please Him because I fear hell or some perverse eternal damnation side of a supposedly loving God…I try to please Him because He loves me unconditionally. Besides obedience to avoid punishment is not nearly as fulfilling as a loving relationship built on trust and security.

    I honestly don’t know why this is so hard to understand.

  23. marcie says:

    Ya know a wise women once sang “knowing my condition is the reason I must change”. I always believed like you do and after all if I didn’t have the looming fear of eternal damnation or remind myself how wretched I was why then be “good”. Well because the consequences suck! Simple math.

  24. Gary says:

    @Steve – “And, by the way, I will not be judging anyone here.”

    Call me crazy…but this (“But you seem to know everything, so what would it matter to you, anyway?”) really felt like you judging me. I was having honest dialogue and you come back with these kinds of personal attacks. Perhaps you can see why people here have a hard time taking you as sincere?

  25. Steve Martin says:


    OK, friend. I get it.

    By the way. I say as much (“you seem to know everything”) to my own family. But you didn’t know that…so forgive me.

  26. Gary says:

    Steve I gladly accept the olive branch. For what it’s worth…I genuinely harbor no ill feelings against you. True enough we may never see eye to eye so to speak. But I would like to think that as brothers we can learn from each other…and if not convince each other at least sharpen our knowledge in the face of respectful dialogue.

    Thank you.

  27. Gary says:

    Marcie…So true. Sin brings very natural and real consequences. But praise God thanks to Jesus…God’s wrath is no longer one of them.

  28. marcie says:

    Great news. I need god to advocate when I get my stupid ass in messes. Kind of sick to think that any loving parent would kick a child during a crisis even if its self inflicted.

  29. Sarah says:


  30. Syl says:

    “Blessing the life in someone usually requires a deep respect for their uniqueness, an openness to allowing them to uncover who they are rather than shaping them into who we want or need them to be. We cannot strengthen someone and violate their integrity at the same time. Innately, blessing life confers a greater freedom on those we bless.” (Remen)

    I am amazed (although I really shouldn’t be) that the mature wisdom of the above statement would somehow be construed as saying “anything goes”. Re: the references to orgies, drugs, theft, etc. Good night in the morning! Nowhere does this advocate irresponsible, immature license or any other such nonsense. Open up your eyes – better yet, open your heart and mind.

    And tHat is essentially what this says – open your eyes, heart, and mind. Instead of fearing and judging differences and trying to force others – whether child or spouse or neighbor or whomever – into the role you expect for them to fill for you, have enough respect for them as unique individuals to listen and observe and learn, and in doing so, you may uncover ways to encourage and empower them to not only reach their potential in any and every area of their life, but to discover and realize that potential for themselves.

    This has nothing to do with sin – except perhaps the sin committed by those who run roughshod over others in their zeal to force conformity to their own idea of acceptability – whatever that may mean.

    I think of the brilliant dentist I worked for years ago, who graduated at the top of his class and had a highly successful practice but absolutely hated what he did for a living. His father was a respected surgeon and the only acceptable careers for the surgeon’s son were medicine or law. Rather than be disowned (which would have happened if he’d pursued horticulture, which he loved) he opted for dental school and a career that would keep the family happy while providing an income that would allow early retirement to finally do what he really wanted to do – open his own plant nursery. Just think of the time and effort and energy and creativity that would not have been wasted if papa hadn’t been such a hard-ass, demanding his son fit a prescribed mold no matter how miserable the result.

    Or consider the young artist who finally put down her pencil and brushes after years of being pigeonholed and harangued, first by family who expected her to become a commercial artist (no question – it was simply expected), then by art teachers who were more interested in following a curriculum than mentoring a talented student who didn’t “color inside the lines”, and then by a couple of professional artists who scared her with dire warnings about “prostituting her talent” and the awful death of creativity that would be her lot if she pursued a career in art, and finally by those good Christians who told her that to not use her talent “for God’s glory” would be disobedient and sinful while they simultaneously disparaged artists as suspicious characters of questionable morals and the arts as a hotbed of temptation and licentiousness. So she finally said “Enough!” and asked God to either take her talent away or show her how to enjoy it without the miserable weight of contradictory expectations that had rained down on her for as long as she could remember. Eventually she met a wise man who listened to her and looked at some of her work and told her that if making art made her happy she should do it just because it makes her happy – she could make a living at it if she wanted to, but if it didn’t make her happy she shouldn’t do it – because being an artist isn’t about what you make or how you earn a living. It’s about how you see things, your approach to life, and the creativity of your mind – it’s who you are, not what you do, and she would always be an artist whether or not she ever painted or drew again. That was long ago and my wise friend was right. I am an artist and always will be, regardless of what I do, and no one else’s expectations or judgments can change who I am.

    The quote above has nothing to do with license to sin or other such foolishness. It is speaking of an attitude and approach that allows talents, abilities, character, and the best of one’s mind, heart, and personality to flourish.

    It’s about encouraging the best by not squashing others’ souls.

  31. marcie says:

    Syl absolutely beautiful. I’m so sorry for you, your friend and so many people that have been robbed. But most of all this world that was the one that lost years of beauty as these gifts god has given lay imprisoned.

  32. Gary says:

    Yeah what Marcie said Syl. Very compelling and certainly thought provoking. It is wonderful that you broke away from all the expectations to simply be who God made you to be. Perhaps you will be able to share your experience with many others going through the same struggles and help them break free sooner.

  33. marcie says:

    Yah what Gary said too lol and share your art with the rest of us =)

  34. Christine says:

    Thanks Gary and Syl for your lovely thoughts. I couldn’t have out it nearly so well.

    @Steve Martin: “If there is no sin, there is no sorrow for sin. If there is no sorrow for sin, there is no need for forgiveness. If no forgiveness is needed then no Savior is needed. If no Savior is needed then we are on our own…forever.”

    Steve, I have to disagree on a couple of parts of that logic:

    “If there is no sorrow for sin, there is no need for forgiveness.”

    Why not? If Jesus forgave his murderers in the act (as David pointed out) than forgiveness had a purpose without sorrow for sin. Which means there can be a need for forgiveness without sorrow for sin.

    “If no forgiveness is needed then no Savior is needed. If no Savior is needed then we are on our own…forever.”

    Not needing forgiveness would only mean changing our view of Jesus’ death as substitutionary atonement. It wouldn’t mean there weren’t other reasons reason for a saviour or messiah, nor would not needing a saviour mean there was no god with which to have a beneficial relationship. It would not mean we were “on our own forever”.

    As just one example, the post is about suffering. If a saviour can help us in our suffering, can value us in the midst of prejudice, can help us to fight injustice for ourselves and others, then we are not “on our own”, even if there were no sin at all.

  35. marcie says:

    Steve been thinking about you since yesterday and what you said about your sweet family. Also that you come looking for those who have ears to hear
    … I can feel that you have a genuine heart I ask you to think here…. I was in this place where I spoke at people and yet it did not define my heart. Sometimes when our old wineskins (David example you well know but used here in a real way) is so full of tradition there is no room for anything else. God tried hard to open my eyes but I was deaf and blind. The traditions of men make null the voice of god. It is true!

    God bless you today.