My Dear Brother and Sister in Christ, my Friends
Today I’d like to speak about “Suffering as the fruit of ill-used freedom.”
Speaking about man’s responsibility to God for his evil deeds, I turned my attention to suffering as a punishment in my last consideration. I made a distinction between suffering as punishment in the strict sense and as a punishment in a broader sense. The first is when God, as a loving Father, punishes his children with a desire to teach them wisdom. Sometimes we deal with such a punishment, coming from the hand of God, here on earth. More often, however, we experience punishment in broader terms; it is then the consequence of an evil act. This suffering is inseparable from the violation of the moral law. In this case, God does not punish; the man himself is responsible for his spiritual disability, which is the consequence of the sin committed.
Both the one and the other forms of suffering in the sense of punishment have a close relationship with human freedom. We cannot punish someone when he is not responsible for his actions. To make this more specific, we need to pay attention to our responsibility for someone else’s misfortune. Suffering on earth is the result of improper use of freedom by other people. Visiting the concentration camp, for example, Auschwitz – we can see how man’s hand prepared this terrible fate. The concentration camp was not God’s work and God is not responsible for its existence. It was a man-made death factory and man is responsible for the suffering and unhappiness that others experienced in the concentration camp. The same kind of responsibility can be seen by observing the suffering of a child who was conceived and born into a family in which there is no love. This child suffers from the beginning either because of indifference, or because of reluctance, or even because of the hatred of his parents. It is not God who is responsible for this child’s suffering. The responsibility rests on the shoulders of the parents. And suffering that will flow from torn marriages? It is one spouse who inflicts suffering on the other, cheating on him or leaving her. He is guilty because he caused the suffering. We suffer today in the world because of various diseases caused by polluted air and dirty water. It is not God who is responsible for this suffering caused by these diseases. It is people who poison the air, and many millions of people suffer from bone degeneration or suffer dying from cancer.
We are dealing with indirect liability here. However, man is always responsible for this suffering. It comes from badly used freedom. Man, in the name of misunderstood freedom, destroys others, destroys himself, sometimes even without knowing it.
The question arises: Should God, who knows perfectly well how much suffering will appear in the world due to the bad use of freedom by man, not take away this freedom from man? In other words, would it not be better if a man lost his freedom, because without this gift he would enjoy order on earth. At first glance, millions of people would support such a solution. Suffering innocently and unjustly, the cripples would prefer to give up their freedom, so that the world would be in order and their suffering would end.
However, the thing is not so simple. Let us ask the question: Is fire in the hands of people a gift or a curse? Based on the flame of fire, humanity constructed the whole machine of war. It is in the heat of melted steel that the knife is sharpened. It is in fire that weapons are made. The fire is closed in missiles. The fire has been freed from the atom and today it can destroy the whole earth. If this fire is threatening humanity and since it still destroys for centuries, it inflicts pain, terrorizes people, and if through the ages still, would it not be better to give it up? Would it not be better for God to take fire away from people? Then we will return to the age of the cave, the Stone Age, to feed on roots and fruits. In the face of such an alternative, each one of us will say: God must leave us fire, for the same fire that exists on earth gives much more good than evil.
Similarly with freedom. Freedom is such a gift that the earth enjoys much more good fruit than evil. And although suffering ties in with him, God will not take away freedom from man, because if He did, He would bring us to the level of animals. Then there would be no man. By allowing suffering, God leaves this amazingly creative power in our hands, because freedom, even when abused, determines the dignity of man and defines God’s love for a man who does not make him enslaved and crushed.
This consideration leads us to a simple and hopeful conclusion. Since the enormous amount of suffering on earth is the result of ill-used freedom, then it is possible to eliminate it. It is in our hands, after all. If wise people could isolate those who cannot take advantage of freedom, then one could build a house of peace and happiness in the world? In fact, the opposite is true, those who do not value freedom and cannot use it often isolate those who value and use freedom. It really lies in the hands of people and this paradoxical reality must necessarily be reversed. The world is upside down in this respect and the time is right for it to stand normally – on its feet. It is necessary that wise people, who value freedom, are able to use it for the benefit of others. As Christians, we are obliged to do everything that is in our capabilities to minimize the suffering on earth resulting from the misuse of freedom. This is the task of every wise man. This is the task of the health service, the task of educators, and especially it is the task of those whom we choose to rule over, that is, to serve. Authority should be handed over to people who know what a treasure freedom is, who can respect it and fight for it.
The simplest example. The removal of hunger from the earth lies within our capabilities. One hundred million annually starve to death. If each of us shared with them the bread which we eat, no one would die of hunger. None of us, eating about a quarter a day less, would not get sick because of it, and that’s enough to save one hundred million people from starvation. It really lies within the capability of every human being. And God is not in any way responsible for the death of one hundred million brothers and sisters from hunger. The abolishing of death through hunger on our globe is within our reach. It is us, and not God, who are responsible for every death through hunger.
There are, however, misfortunes against which a man is completely helpless. Volcano eruption, an earthquake, when tens of thousands of people die in the course of a few seconds. Cyclones, which, going in a powerful wave, can destroy entire villages and cities. A thunderbolt that kills a human on the spot. Here, freedom has nothing to say. Such misfortunes exist and God is directly responsible for them in the way of the question – why does He not stop it?
Now we come to the most difficult question. How to reconcile God’s love with suffering and misfortune that exist on earth, regardless of man’s will?
We, in human terms, reason in this way. If we genuinely love someone, we do not accept that they should suffer. If it is within our power, we will never allow a loved one to suffer. God’s love is omnipotent. So how can God, with His all-powerful love, look at the suffering that exists on earth? I will try to answer this question in our newsletter next week.
With love, friendship and prayers – Fr Marcin