Q: How do we know if something is God’s will?

Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, Kan.:

The Bible commands us to “Do what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:18) Many people attempt to live by God’s plan. It is one thing if discerning God’s intention leads us to improve the world. It’s quite another if, like Prime Minister Yitzahk Rabin’s assassin in Israel, Yigal Amir, we believe that God has sent us for something evil. Of course, Amir believed he was acting out God’s commandments. Neither did anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder think he was transgressing against God in assassinating Wichita, Kan., physicianGeorge Tiller.

A good God will not send us to destroy existing life. We ought to be careful that our actions not be evil, which is contrary to God’s will. The Torah calls on us to develop principles of good by which to judge our conduct. Even Abraham, about to sacrifice his son, was guaranteed God’s righteousness before he acted. (Genesis 18:25, “Shall not the judge of all the Earth do justly?”)

The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, pastor of Ebenezer AME Church, Kansas City, Mo.

I acknowledge the painful spiritual wrestling that goes into determining and accepting God’s will. I confess a need to remember Jesus’ painful wrestling with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus’ struggle allows me to affirm my struggle as I pray and listen for God’s will for my life and my ability to act within that will.

Here are the time-honored answers for discerning God’s will: First, we must understand the character of God. That understanding allows us to know what actions fit into the revealed actions of God. What have been God’s desires in the past for those he loves? I believe the gift of Jesus the Christ demonstrates God’s love for us and God’s desire that we have life and have it more abundantly. Second, we must read Scripture to understand how God’s will has been recorded in the holy texts. In Scripture are God’s mercies, healings, restorations and forgiveness. Jeremiah 29:11 speaks of God’s plans for us, “plans to prosper, not to harm, to give hope and a future.”

Third, we must develop a relationship of prayer and quiet time with God. Time spent with God keeps our ongoing conversation alive and vibrant.

Finally, we may have wrestled with awful tragedies that have occurred. Nothing that violates the character of God as revealed in Jesus the Christ can possibly be God’s will.

The Kansas City Star/MCT