Cooperation: Two Way Traffic to Life

Why doesn’t God_______? You fill in the blank—you’ve probably asked the same question. Why doesn’t God heal the sick and stop the tragedies and right the wrongs and turn back evil and make everything nice? Yes, why doesn’t God?

Well, that question isn’t going to be answered in one short column. There are libraries full of books trying to answer that question as people wrestle with the whole issue of evil and nastiness and horror and general yuckiness in a world that is declared “good” by a God who is also declared “Good.”

My own take on it is that God could easily make everything good again, but we’d just mess it up again because people really don’t want to be all that good themselves. There is one point in the Bible where Jesus tells his followers to get busy and get out there and heal the sick and raise the dead and cleanse the lepers and cast out demons. All those things surely sound like turning the world good again. But right after Jesus tells them to get going, he also tells them that some people really aren’t going to be happy about being cleansed and healed and alive and demon-free and are not going to offer any welcome to those coming for such tasks.

Why? Because getting healed and cleansed and being alive and demon free are not one way actions that come only from God to us. We have to cooperate in getting healed and being clean and staying alive and demon free. It’s a two-way street here—traffic has got to flow both ways for it to work.

This spring when I was in France, my son and I wanted to drive into the center of a very old town. To get there we had to pass over a small bridge and go inside what were the original city walls, built to hold off invaders. The street through the city was very, very narrow, and traffic could only flow one way at a time, yet there were entrances on both sides of the town. So the street was always one way, but it changed directions every few minutes. It was the only way it could work. It meant long waits as the stop light on one side of town let in a series of cars. Those cars had to get through the town and out the other side before that light could turn green and let in a few going the other way. A bit cumbersome for this normally rapid moving American, but it worked. Everyone cooperated with the need for two way traffic in a one-way town. Cooperation—it means things go both ways.

I really can’t see any difference between the need for traffic cooperation and the need to cooperate with the Spirit of God. We’re constantly being offered healing, cleansing, life and freedom from our demons. But to be healed means actually receiving the healing—and then living like well people. To be cleansed means getting bathed, and then getting bathed again and again and again, because we all get dirty all the time. To be made alive means leaving behind the things that lead to death and intentionally living in the light the holy call to be fully human. To be free of our demons means we no longer show hospitality to the things which destroy us and those around us, but say “no” to those destructive forces.

It takes two of us, but many just start and stop with “Why doesn’t God …” and never get to “why don’t I . . .” and then never see that God is doing those things—we’re just not cooperating.

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