Sunday, September 16, 2012

What rewards

Went to a great concert (Josh Garrels) with some good friends tonight.  There was a lot of talk about art and creativity and the reason we were created.   It gelled some of my recent thoughts along those lines.  Is it necessary for us to be creative here on earth? Is there a reward for it?  Is it necessary to struggle, to develop here on earth?

The idea that these things are necessary for human development -that human beings need to be creative and struggle against the forces of evil and temptation here below- is not as attractive to me now as it once was.  It's an inviting thought when your basic needs are taken care of, and you become bored with the mundane day-to-day. When you're headed to and from work and are suffering from that nagging sense of repetitiveness and futility, then the idea that we're here to make some sort of cosmic difference seems like a salvation in it's own right.

But is it really the case that these are necessary experiences? If our rewards and personal development were commensurate with our success in doing that sort of battle down here, then what of all the infant souls that never had the chance to engage in that struggle?  Or what about even the lonely millions starving quietly to death in back alleys, living an animal existence from birth to death without hearing the word of Christ?

What of the stillborn? The miscarried? Will their miscarriage prove to be an eternal handicap, that robbed them irretrievably of the maturity of soul that can only be gained in the trenches here below?
And if it's not necessary to have to go through the gauntlet of a prolonged struggle against temptation and evil on a sinful earth, then why are the majority subjected to it?

In the bible, the story focuses strongly on the important people, the ones in a place to make a difference.  Even when they are of little account in the world-at-large's eyes, they are still agents of change in the present world.  Yet there are other less influential characters. There are Moses' contemporaries, those babies that did not make it into the Egyptian royal house by basket but rather were thrown to crocodiles in the nile.  There are the boys of Bethlehem, the oldest of which were likely just learning how to talk in full sentences, the youngest of which were perhaps not even granted a first drink at their mother's breast before they were killed in some terrible way by Herod's men.  What did they accomplish in their short sojourn?  What eternal reward did they accrue from their experiences of suffering on the cursed earth?  Did they leave any lasting legacy? Did they exercise their wills in obedience to God and so resist the evil one?
What of the prostitute's baby who died in the story of Solomon's wise judgement?  Or the unnamed baby boy of David and Bathsheba who was struck down in punishment for his father's sin?

If there is a universal purpose for life on earth, it must be a purpose that all can attain to - even those who wouldn't be conscious of attaining it.

Perhaps it is merely to glorify God by being what He created you to be.  In this sense even the miscarried children lived their short lives in perfect conformity to the will of God.

But what of reward?

We read of the fate of Lazarus and Dives (the rich man).  Abraham explains that "Lazarus received bad things" as the reason for why he was now receiving the reward of comfort.

But what of rewards for service?  Is suffering or deprivation in itself a service?  Romans says that if we are God's children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

But do babies suffer with Him? Epaphroditus in Phillipians 2 is lauded by Paul as being worthy of honor for having gotten sick and almost dying while in process of helping Christ's apostle. But getting sick isn't exactly a spiritual discipline, or even an act of the will.  He just got sick while doing (albeit intentionally) God's will. I suppose an infant who does God's will -even without express intention- by existing for however long on this cursed earth will be credited for the suffering that accompanies it.1 Peter 4 speaks of those who suffer according to the will of God - and isn't that how our Lord suffered?  Does it matter whether we suffer intentionally or not? As long as we suffer while carrying out God's set purpose for our life-without sin-does this count as suffering with Christ?

Personally I think it would be far worse to suffer as an infant does, without knowledge of righteousness or unrighteousness.  If I suffer, I know that my actual sins would deserve much worse than any suffering poured out on me in this life, and would be able to rejoice in my conscious knowledge of reward for suffering in the will of God.  But babies don't have this knowledge, and so suffer as innocents at the hands of a corruption brought into the world by accountable adults. Their existence for however long it lasts on earth is as the image of God, unspoiled by actual sin.

We are told that we will receive our due at the Judgement seat of Christ for "deeds done in the body, whether good or bad". Isnt' just being a baby a good deed?  It's hard to imagine that God would not judge it so, (for whatever my imagination is worth).  In this case, infants would receive the reward for this deed of being what they were allowed to be here, and then given the task of pleasing God in heaven.