By Dr Graham Kings, Bishop of Sherborne
Deep conversations sometimes happen in unusual circumstances. Over drinks recently, a lawyer asked me quietly about innocent suffering. How can a God of love and power allow it?
I said that there is no satisfying answer this side of heaven, but that there are hints and signposts in the celebrations of Christmas and Easter. By now we were moving through to dinner and there was little time to elaborate.
I mentioned that a lot depends on our view of God.
If we see him as sitting on the edge of the universe, peering down on us and twiddling his thumbs, then there is little hope of hints and signposts. But if we allow the heart of Christmas and Easter to shape our view of God, then things change perspective. He was intrigued.
Over coffee, we continued. At Christmas, Christians believe that God became a vulnerable baby. He was nearly killed by Herod’s troops, but escaped to Egypt.
Our view of God should encompass God himself becoming vulnerable to innocent suffering.
Some say: ‘If God made the world with all this suffering, then he should clear it up and pay for it.’ In reply, we may only point towards the cross: ‘We believe that indeed is the heart of Good Friday.’
It is the linking of the messages of Christmas and Easter which opens up imaginations. Who was it who was born and died? One baby among many? One man among many?
If Jesus was - and indeed is - God as a real human being, then God himself has experienced innocent suffering. We discussed these ideas and agreed to meet again.
May God expand our imaginations this Advent and Christmastide.