2 Theses on The Gospel & Suffering (Part 3)

With this post we come to the end of this little series on the Gospel and suffering. We looked at why suffering and evil are such difficult topics for us as Christians to deal with, and the first thesis that I put forward was that suffering has no meaning, and is not good, in and of itself.

The second thing that I want to say, and if you’ve read this blog before, or listened to some of my messages, it won’t surprise you that I think God’s answer for the suffering of the world is to be found in the Church.

Again, that may be controversial, it may be confronting, and a little bit scary, but God has created the Church as the first part of His new creation. That is a part of what the Gospel is – one author said that you cannot talk about resurrection without talking about crucifixion. You have to go through Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday!

When we talk about the Gospel, we are talking not only about the resurrection of Jesus, but His death as well. In Jesus’ death He enters into our suffering, He comes under the boot of the evil in this world, He is sentenced to death unjustly, and He dies painfully, suffering. He dies having had the flesh ripped off of His back, and having been nailed to a plank of wood. In this Jesus identifies with our suffering, He enters into it! He makes it possible for Him to understand what we are going through and to be present with us in our suffering. Often when we suffer, we think that we are alone, but the reality is we are never alone, we are always with Jesus.

Jesus rises from the dead, He ascends to heaven and He calls the Church into being to be the outpost of His Kingdom here on earth. Let me share with you what someone once said about the Church and the problem of suffering/evil:

Historically as Christians we have not had a ‘solution’ to the problem of evil. Rather we have had a community of care that has made it possible for us to absorb the destructive terror of evil that constantly threatens to destroy all human relations.
Stanley Hauerwas

It is clear from the early chapters of Acts, and the other letters of the New Testament that we are supposed to be a community of people who live a life together of radical difference to the world around us. We are supposed to be those people who look out for each other, who put each others needs above our own, who care for the widows, the orphan, those who are not able to care for or speak up for themselves. We are supposed to be a community that absorbs the suffering of the world around us, and points to Jesus as the ultimate solution.

Why? That is the big question! Why do we do this? Is it because we have HOPE!

We look forward to the world to come, we look at passages like Revelation 21

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.””
Revelation 21:1-5

We look at this and we know that we are called to live out of THIS reality now, we are called to be a place of comfort of restoration, of healing and wholeness. So we do have an answer to the problem of suffering, it is the people around you, it is the people who you see sitting in the church around you – that is what the church has done for 2000 years, built hospitals, trained people to care for others, and done so much good in the face of terrible suffering and evil.

We have been handed this task from those who have come before, and it is our turn to care for those who can’t to alleviate suffering wherever we find it.

1 Suffering has no meaning
2 We are the answer that God has given to this problem.

Question: What’s one thing, just one, that you can do today to participate and show forth the new creation talked about in Revelation 21?

Featured image credit:
Hoach Le Dinh

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