Just as a parent is sometimes surprised, or horrified, at something his/her child may do, so too is God sometimes pleased and sometimes unhappy with our choices.
So imagine, if you will, the lush Eden with the Biblical first two humans, Adam and Eve or, if you would prefer, then imagine a verdant area in Africa with some early humans.
Regardless, here we have these humans running around, exploring and figuring out what they can and cannot eat, discovering that they need sleep, enjoy sex, have babies that cry but are, nonetheless, wonderously cute and cuddly.
And imagine God looking down at his creation and watching these human creatures to see what they will do. Remember, He gave them free will so he really does not know what they will do. And he’s curious to find out.
So, He says to Eve, “Don’t eat the apple.”
Imagine his surprise and undoubtedly disappointment when she does exactly what He specifically forbade.
And imagine a parent telling a child, “Here are some crayons and paper. Don’t draw on the walls.”
I’m sure we all know how that’s going to turn out.
So what does the parent do? Some will scold the child and some will punish. Regardless, most will learn not to mention such possibilities and rely, instead, on the child’s somewhat limited creativity and his/her slowly dawning sense of right and wrong. Given the choice, most children (and most adults) will choose “right” over “wrong”. There are exceptions, of course, but that’s what discipline and guidance are for.
So, too, does God watch and respond to what His children do.
Reading the Old Testament, there are many instances where God metes out punishment.
Noah’s flood could certainly be considered a rather extreme example. So what’s going on in that and similar cases? (Here I’m also thinking of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction.)
Assuming a good parent, are there cases where a child’s behaviour warrants a very strong, we might even say extreme act?
I think most would agree that if they saw a three year old about to pick up a loaded revolver, we would be moved to immediate, rapid and very strong action.
And what of a parent’s action to block access to a child’s friends who are, as we might say, headed in the wrong direction? If one of a child’s friends takes drugs, would you fault or condone a parent’s action to disconnect their child from that influence?
Parents sometimes take strong steps for their child’s well-being.
And so does God.
Many psychologists say that the best way to raise a child is to use both rewards and punishments, as befit the situation. Punishment alone is liable to alienate the child and drive them away from the parent that would otherwise act as a guide as the child learns about the world. And although rewards are very positive reinforcers of the behaviour we would like to see, we know that we won’t witness all the good acts, that we cannot, therefore, reward all of them, and so the child must somehow learn different reasons for doing good instead of bad. Rewards alone are not enough either.
At a particularly bad time in the life of the world, God sent His Son to give us a message.
That message was that, no matter what we did, if we would just say we were sorry — and we truly meant it — that all would be forgiven.
Jesus said we should love our Father who loves us, and that we should love each other in that same way.
He said that those ten rules had grown complicated over the centuries with all sorts of Laws but that all those were missing the point, that people had lost sight of what is really important.
And that is to love one another, and to love God as God loves us.
He gave us the free will to do so.
All you have to do is use that free will, to accept that God truly loves us and sometimes intercedes in our best interest, and to love Him for that caring involvement, and to love — and treat — each other the same.