God is bloody well unfair, I thought as a child on the Sunday morning our clergyman read Number 14:18: ‘The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation’.
Why should the innocent, little children be penalised for the sins of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, I wondered. God seemed cruel to me and jolly unfair.
It was years later and having the ‘sins of the fathers’ visited upon me before I understood the verse and realised, God may not be the cruel ogre I thought him to be. Without direct interference in our lives, he uses pain to clumsily lead us away from evil and towards good.
Here’s how I would describe it. Imagine a school bully who punches you in the arm every chance he/she gets. You develop a large purple welt. Armed with this visual evidence of bullying, you approach the headmaster who puts an end to the abuse.
Now imagine the punches occur but leave no trace. The abuse is just as painful and damaging but also invisible and interior. You approach your headmaster with your tale of woe but with no evidence to buoy your claim, he dismisses you as a victim-player and attention-seeker. This allows the bullying to continue, indefinitely, unchequed.
It’s that way with the ‘sins of the fathers’. If their iniquity leaves no trace of pain, it will be allowed to run rampant. I’ve heard of families where the great-grandfather created an atmosphere of incest. He may even be one of those vile men who teach their sons how to rape their sisters. This will continue, unchecked, in each generation as happened in my husband, Rhys’, family until one brave member finally says ‘No! Enough!’
But they can’t do that unless they’re aware of the pain, the toxic dynamics. If there were no manifestations, no damage from a family culture of incest, it would continue unchequed, generation after generation.
Is it fair to those who did no wrong? Absolutely not.
But someone must end the iniquity. Someone must cry ‘Enough is enough!’ Unfortunately, this is usually the wounded, hurting, innocent victim of the ‘sins of the fathers’.
In some way, this twisted logic makes sense of the senseless suffering of those who did nothing wrong. It answers the age-old question ‘why do bad things happen to good people’.
To be fair, good things and bad things happen to all of us, the good and the bad alike. But why do the good have to suffer the effects of the bad that befalls them?
Because in the absence of suffering, evil would run rampant. With no suffering resulting from evil actions perpetrated by evil people, it would still be evil but it would be impossible to discern that it was evil. Suffering is the clue. Suffering keeps evil in cheque.
This is the only logic I can find in ‘the sins of the fathers’ and ‘why do bad things happen to good people’. It’s tortured and twisted but in some way, it makes sense. At least, it makes sense to me.
Suffering happens so we know what is evil. Suffering happens so we can protect ourselves and put a stop to the wrongdoing that is causing us so much pain hopefully long before it reaches the third and fourth generations.
Photo by DrPhotoMoto