The Rector's Lookout (4)

Mother Elisabeth Sinclair

Aug 5, 2021

He Did What??!!

Some of you have been puzzled and disturbed by the Scriptures’ inclusion of certain details of King David’s life (along with innumerable other tragic and awful sagas). Why would our ancestors in the faith include such stories? What is the value of these stories? And, most importantly, why does God also act terribly in some stories, including reportedly killing David and Bathsheba’s baby and allowing David’s wives and concubines to be ravaged as punishment for David’s sin?

Those are “stumper” questions for sure. We live in a beautiful but troubled world, in which people of faith mess up. Sometimes it even seems like people of faith mess up more than people without faith. When a person of faith acts immorally, the surrounding world understandably feels disappointed and angry by that person’s hypocrisy and/or *functional atheism. The disappointed ones may legitimately wonder what difference faith—or salvation by and relationship with God—makes in people’s lives if they remain so “prone to wander,” as the hymn “Oh, to grace how great a debtor” describes the situation.

A parishioner told me earlier this week that people who claim faith in God and who try to pattern their lives according to Jesus’ teaching are still forever in God’s hospital of healing and restoration. We haven’t “achieved” moral perfection. Rather, (hopefully) we’re keenly aware of our need for God’s grace and, therefore, to extend the hospital metaphor, we take our medicine, do our rehabilitative exercises, listen attentively to our doctor and to other patients who have experienced a similar disease, etc. One way we listen attentively to other “patients” is to read Scripture stories and notice whom to emulate and whose mistakes to avoid at all costs.

The third question—about God’s behavior—is the core of our frequent ambivalence toward God, expressing our greatest fear… that God isn’t wholly good. How have you made sense of this question? Watch next week’s article for this theme.

*Functional atheism = a phrase coined by author Parker Palmer, meaning that we claim belief in God but live as though everything actually rests upon us, or as though God is impotent and absent.