Sometimes I walk the track with a friend who does not believe there is a God. This often leads to deep discussions concerning our individual faiths; he follows Buddhism while I follow and practice Christianity.
During a recent walk my friend made some remarks concerning God allowing suffering and discomfort in the world. For him it’s proof that God does not exist; for what God would allow such suffering in the world?
I asked him if it were true that, “Buddhism teaches that suffering is inherent in life and that one can only be liberated from it through mental and moral self-purification?”
He said yes and asked me what my point was. I said, “You follow a religion that acknowledges suffering exists in the word and through efforts on your part to purify yourself morally and mentally you are delivered from that same suffering. Can’t you see the parallels to Christianity? God asks us to lead sinless lives (mental and moral purification) so that in Heaven we will be liberated from suffering.”
He responded, “Yes, but we don’t follow a God who could, if He wanted to, prevent the suffering; A God who takes credit for all the good and washes His hands of all the bad.”
I laughed again.
I told my friend that I didn’t see God that way.
But then I had to stop and think. I had to admit to myself that my prayers often, almost always, asked for relief of some form of suffering while thanking and praising God for something good in my life. So wasn’t I behaving as though my friend’s statement were my belief; that I followed a God who took credit for the good and ignored the bad?
I told my friend that I didn’t follow God to be relieved of all my suffering but that I did believe God had relieved me of suffering many times in my life.
My friend then asked me a much more serious question, “If you don’t follow God for comfort and convenience, then why do you?”
I told my friend that I needed time to figure out how to best answer his question. I was disappointed with myself for not having an immediate answer for him. Plus, I had to admit that my interactions with God were primarily times of asking for help and times of worship.
My friend’s question didn’t ask why I believe in God, he asked why I follow God. One can believe but not follow, right?
Over the next few days I spent my mediation time on answering the question “Why?” Lots of answers came to mind – shallow answers. I started thinking that maybe the Bible held the answer.
When I thought about the Jews of the Old Testament it hit me – they followed God for relief of oppression and deliverance from Egypt. In essence, they were following God for comfort and convenience. God asked for more though.
God asked for love, devotion, and obedience.
And therein lay my answer; I follow God because I love Him, am devoted to Him and cherish my efforts in obedience to Him.
Yes, I still ask for relief of suffering but I’m now expressing my love for Him and re-examining my efforts at obedience. It’s an act of purification and growth.
Why do you follow God? ~jdoe
Disclaimer: I have very little knowledge about Buddhism. What I do know has been communicated by my friend. If there are inaccuracies in my writing concerning Buddhism I apologize. jdoe