IN THE BEGINNING, GOD…
Job 38:1-7, Psalm 104 , Mark 10:35-45
October 19, 1997 by Tad Mitsui
When we see good and innocent people suffer, and evil thrive, we feel that the world is unjust and God is unfair. Then, we must remind ourselves of two of the important articles of our faith. First, in the beginning when absolutely nothing existed, God was there. Secondly, this God is the same God who loves all of us no matter how small and insignificant we are. If we believe that, we will be able to put our view of life in this world into a proper perspective.
Confucius was a master of insight into the proper order of things. He once said, "It is better to be a head of a chicken than to be a tail of a cow." I could translate that to say, "It is better to be Mayor of Howick than to be a cleaning lady of the White House." But in a small community like Howick (population 300 you will realize very soon that to be Mayor means to be a servant, getting dozens of phone calls about the sewage system after midnight. When you read the Gospel story of a quarrel between James and John in the Bible, who fought for the right to sit next to Jesus, you will realize how silly it is to fight for a prestigious position. It also teaches us about a mark of leadership. Jesus said that to be a true leader was to be a servant. God alone is the ultimate leader. If we should follow God”s example for a leader, we must also remember that he took a form of a servant in Jesus Christ.
In the beginning, there was God. God alone is greater than all others, and everybody else is equal. That is to say, all are equal before the truth. It is said that one night during his campaign into Russia, Napoleon who was already the Emperor of much of the Western Europe, took a stroll around the encampment alone without any body guard. The soldiers were asleep in their tents. A sentry stopped him, "Halt. Don”t move or I will shoot." He was under a strict order to allow absolutely no-one to pass that point. "I am your Commander-in-Chief, Napoleon Bonaparte. Let me pass." said Napoleon, standing only a few inches away from the young soldier”s face. There was silence. Napoleon assumed that the sentry understood his predicament, so he was about to walk pass him. The young soldier aimed his musket at the emperor”s chest, "Don”t go any further or I will shoot." He looked as though he meant what he said. Napoleon was not prepared to risk his life by confronting a young man who was absolutely serious about performing his duties. The Private was praised by the Emperor next day.
Everyone, openly or secretly, wants to be ahead of others. But the world will be chaos, if everybody insists on being ahead of everybody else. Each one of us have to find our own place. We live in an inter-dependent world, where each person”s function has the equal value, though it is different from each other. A head is as important as a tail. Just like Napoleon found, we must sometimes swallow our pride and accept the directives from each other. You have to have an open mind, setting aside your pride and preconceived ideas. You have to, from time to time, listen to an unexpected and objectionable truth coming out of an unexpected source. It can be a child speaking to you, or can be a homeless street person. Sometimes such truths put us in our proper place.
Job didn”t like what he heard, when he finally had a chance to hear God speaking to him. But he found the truth about his place in the universe. He lost his wealth, his children, and his health. His wife urged him to give up his faith. His good friends urged him to confess his sins. They accused Job of committing some unspeakable sins to deserve such terrible sufferings. Despite all those physical, emotional, and spiritual torments, Job kept his faith in God. So he never stop asking God, "Why?" Then, at last God spoke to Job. God did not answer Job”s question. God asked him, "Where were you when I created the world?" When Job asked a question, God answered with a question. Not a very satisfying response! What a put down.
When you run into the passages like this, you must remember that you have to be honest enough to say, "I don”t like this." This is not unbelief. If you believe in God and take him seriously, you must be honest enough to ask questions and express your doubts and feelings. A loving relationship requires honesty. You can not build a house on styrofoam blocks. You must keep asking questions. However, you must also be humble enough to accept an answer you may not like. Truth can hurt and make you angry. But you must be humble and patient enough to accept truth you may not expect like the one coming from the mouth of your own child. Where was I when God created the world? I must say, "I didn”t exist." It is a realization that makes you feel small. But it”s the truth. The world can exist without you. It will continue to exist after you are gone. You may not like this. But it is a necessary step to see yourself on a realistic position in this world.
If you go to Insectarium in the Botanical Garden in Montreal, you can see many kinds of cockroaches from all over the world, big and small, alive and dead. It was a revelation for me to find that cockroaches had existed 150 millions years before Dinosaurs appeared on this planet. Dinosaurs dominated the earth for 350 million years together with plants related to the ones we know as ferns. Those plants and dinosaurs are now extinct. Their fossils are found today in the forms of coal, gas, and oil. But cockroaches outlived dinosaurs, are still with us today, and may outlive us. When you consider the fact that human beings have existed on this earth less than one million years, you must begin to look at cockroaches with respect. Most importantly, they make us realize our smallness in a big picture, the shortness of our span of domination in the eons of time.
If, God forbid, we human beings manage to destroy this planet because of our greed and our unbridled exploitation of the earth, our brief existence will be remembered in the history book of the universe as an insignificant hiccup. On the other hand, when we realize our seemingly insignificant existence, we will truly appreciate enormity, breadth and depth of love of God. God, who was here in the beginning, before anything else existed, before dinosaurs and cockroaches, is the same God who loved us so much that he sent his own begotten son to die for us to save us.
God told Job how things are. We may not like to hear what Job heard, because it makes us feel so small and our daily concerns so insignificant. But if we feel that way, we must also remember that it is the same God who loves us infinitely. We may be able to forget about the silly rat race to be on top of others, and start respecting all creatures large and small, starting with our friends and relations, and our neighbours.