I enjoy puzzles of most kinds, though they can be timewasters if Iâ€™m not careful. Cryptic crosswords are a favourite, though Iâ€™ve rarely finished one in any of the â€˜qualityâ€™ newspapers. There usually comes a point at which my knowledge is found wanting and Iâ€™m unable to get further without a serious trawl of the dictionary. The particular pleasure of the sudoku puzzle is that no matter how difficult it is to complete, you know that there is a way to solve it. You already have as much information as you need, the right answer is implicit in the clues given and only one answer is possible. There is never a need to guess; all that is needful is that you follow the rules consistently and carefully. All is neat and tidy.
We sometimes treat faith as though it were a sudoku, tidy and straightforward with only one possible answer. If one of us gives a different solution, one of us is wrong. And it isnâ€™t me!
But God has made us more than numbers on a grid, and he is certainly not to be reduced to a mere servant of blind logic or convention. There is a wildness, a reckless generosity about God (Grace, we call call it in theology-speak) which disturbs us deeply. So we fall back on the god we have created in our image, who satisfies our sense of what is fair and proper, who obeys the rules and doesnâ€™t put things where (we say) they donâ€™t belong. There is no room for grace in a sudoku!
But praise God that life and faith, though sometimes puzzling, are not puzzles to be solved, nor can they be defined and measured by a tidy set of rules. A sudoku can fun, but grace isâ€¦ amazing.