Is our God a loving and forgiving God? Perhaps the question should be for many, “Is there a God”? I had the good fortune of being born in a time that was unique and hopefully will never be repeated. The world was in desperate shape trying to shake off years of depression, I was a young lad living in a large city with a father earning $12.00 a week. My mother was like all married women of the day, a stay at home mom with household responsibilities and children to raise. My father had a respectable job as a shoe designer and pattern maker but his income really did not reflect the responsibilities of his position. Dad’s family arrived in Canada in 1906, penniless. He was born here in Canada in 1910. His mother was a God-fearing woman and I am so impressed with my grandmother, I spent many weeks and months transcribing her writings into a book called “The Victorian Garden”. My grandfather Scott was a mailman and wore out his legs and feet on the job so he rarely walked much by the time I came along, but was a great reader. Most of my father’s brothers and sisters were church going and were for the most part a God fearing Christian family. Sunday afternoon after Sunday School, many family members would gather at Grandma and Grandpa’s modest home on Condor Ave. in the downtown east end of Toronto. The front verandah and the small garden and the ground floor would be abuzz with conversation and laughter. This was family time that we as a culture to-day have for the most part lost. These were days of hardship and if you had a job, you were expected to perform as you were ever mindful that there were dozens waiting to replace you. Polished shoes, pressed two-piece suit, white shirt and tie and a fedora was the dress expected for the men and all fell into that mould. Pretty print dresses with skirts well below the knee, always a hat when women attended church. God was in his house and I had better follow the teachings of my church or suffer the wrath of a loving heavenly Father that would not put up with any nonsense. This was my world and I knew nothing different. They say that you can tell what a man will be by the year he turns 21. I was 21 in 1957. I am not sure that this formula is worthy because very few of my friends that share our age group are alike. By 1957 my father was making $75.00 a week and a new VW bug was $1,800.00, a new house was about 12 to $15,000.00 at a rate of 3.5% interest. I had just quit a job in 1956 as a Fuller Brush man with little future but good pay ($100.00 per week), for a training job in the housewares industry, I was now making half of what I was, only $50.00 per week. Religion and Church were still a large part of my life. I am now in my early 80’s and when a dear friend was describing his mother who just turned 100, he said, why she is very much like you Paul, she is very religious. I was taken back by that remark as I know that I attend church and pray regularly. I am often asked to give a blessing of thanks for a meal. However, I never think of myself as very religious. Perhaps when comparing myself to others, my peers, I could be thought of in that light. Suddenly, I am thinking that perhaps I should be taking stock of my life and try to live up to the expectations that I once held.
Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking about what my friend thought of me. Sure, I believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he died on the cross for my sins and the sins of all mankind. I believe that he rose from the dead. I believe that the only sin that God will not forgive is the rejection of his son Jesus Christ. Yes, all other sins, just by asking, all sin is forgiven and forgotten. God must get very tired and frustrated hearing our prayers day after day asking to be forgiven for the same dumb sinful acts we keep repeating. I think much the same as most men. God does not think as man thinks and so as we know what God thinks, we do not know how God thinks, how can we understand anything that is not explained or that we have figured out in our own irrational minds. This is where faith comes in and in so many instances we must fall back on faith that this or that is true without any proof other than what we are told to believe through the scriptures. Is it any wonder there are so many that say if you have no proof, why should I take yours or some scribe’s writing as the truth? Muslims or Jews or many other religions will have the same convictions. Or will they? I have had conversations with many Roman Catholics that do not question their faith or the words that have been written by mere mortals. I am sure that Muslims dare not question their Koran, and yet it is one document that has been analyzed and found to have questionable passages.
My Bible has me questioning it. The Bible is said to be inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. However, the old testament talks of a harsh God. One that destroys whole cities including women and children. Babies and young children are thought to be innocent but our loving God swept cities into dust in his name. Daniel murdered his brother and married his sister in law but went down in history as a man of God and a pillar of the Old Testament. Peter rejected Jesus and allowed him to be crucified. God forgives all sinners but this seems like a stretch. The bible spells out the do’s and don’ts for man to follow, God has given us the ability of choice.
We have been given the guide lines as to what is good and what is sin. It seems that we can never be perfect because of God’s rules. We are supposed to be made in God’s image. In Matthew chapters 5 and 6, Jesus lays down some rules that I find to be almost impossible for the average human to follow especially with the reasoning power that God has given us. If you are attacked by a bully, God’s word is to let the bully hit you again and I assume until you are rendered unconscious. If you are being sued and loose your shirt, you should also give up your coat. We are required to tell the truth, not to steal, not to swear by taking the Lord’s name in vain. Just looking at a beautiful woman is no different than committing adultery. If all mankind could follow God’s will, this world would be Heaven on earth, love your enemy, do not murder, divorce only if your partner committed adultery. If you marry a divorced woman, it is the same as committing adultery. Homosexuality is considered a sin. Gambling, alcohol and drugs are on the no - no list as well. So, perhaps we should try harder to follow the laws of our God and not so much our government. From my perspective, the only vice that our government has not condoned is murder, (and that could be argued), the balance government has legalised and has turned into capitalizing for profit.
Faith then should be a very important part of our character and being. We need to be able to weed out junk faith. Look for faith that is backed up with sensible arguments. Even then we can never and will never have all the answers. Religion is so varied and there are so many options. Most people with a religious faith were born into that faith. For those not born into a religious family, get curious and find a God-fearing faith that above all else, one that preaches love and peace. I am a Christian and despite my questioning mind and some doubting, nothing has convinced me that I should change.
Paul D. Scott.