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  1. Here is my first thought in response to your question. Bear in mind it is not THE answer, just my thoughts on a possible answer. I hope others will share their thoughts too….

    Anyone who knows and loves children can relate to this question. Just hearing about child abuse, or seeing starving or AIDS-stricken children, moves the heart to compassion and anger. So how can God talk about punishing innocent children because of their parent’s choices?

    I have found it helpful to think of punishment NOT as God seeking revenge on people who disobey Him, but as God allowing us to experience the consequences of our choices. “If you put your hand in the fire, you will get burned” is the same idea as “if you dishonour and reject my will, you will suffer, and your children will suffer too.”

    This may seem harsh, but this is also reality. If I choose to do drugs, my children WILL be affected. If I choose to join a cult, my children WILL be affected (like Jim Jones or David Koresh, think how many children died). Much of the suffering in Africa (and everywhere) is the result of government decisions. If I neglect or verbally abuse my children, not only will they be affected, but their children will also feel the affects of how their parents dealt with the abuse. Sometimes the abused become abusers, and it carries on for generations.

    We might ask, why doesn’t God stop it. I have often wished that He did. But we need to understand that this will also mean the end to our freedom. All of our choices have consequences, and put together even minor bad choices can have devastating consequences. God would constantly have to step in, to interfere. It wouldn’t matter if I abused my children because God would step in and fix it. Or He would stop me from making all choices except the “right” and “good” ones. I would be His puppet, not His free child (with all the risks that entails). God has chosen to entrust us with free will, to warn us about the consequences of our choices, and to allow us to experience them if we choose them.

    Think of your own children. It would be easier on you if you did not allow them to make their own choices, always forced them to make the right ones, or always bailed them out when they made bad ones. But what kind of children would they be?

    I am not sure that this answer is fully satisfying, but it does make some sense to me. It forces me to think about my actions and their consequences, to see how my choices today can have an affect on the next generations, for better or for worse. It makes me responsible, not a puppet, not a victim. All those people who are exercising their “freedom” to live however they want (free love, free drugs, affairs, gambling and drinking and partying, etc.) are discovering that their choices have broader implications than just their own momentary happiness. Many children are suffering as a result.

    One more thing, God does provide options, even after our bad choices. He does offer grace, hope, and second chances. Abuse victims can still have hope for breaking the cycle, for becoming healers rather than victims or victimizers. But they need to exercise their free will to do this too. They need to reach out for God’s help, and He can help them change the direction of their lives.

    In some ways, Jesus’ suffering and death is God’s way of saying, “I allowed you the freedom to choose, and this world is in the mess its in because of your choices, but I will step in and help you turn things around. I am willing, are you?” God doesn’t just watch us suffer the folly of our choices, He joins us in it, then offers us a way out!”

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