We humans are great problem solvers: we overcome distance with phone calls, emails, satellites and airplanes; we overcome summer heat with air-conditioning and winter cold with forced-air heating; we overcome illnesses with vaccinations; the mundane tasks of life like vacuuming the house with robots—and the list goes on.
But after all our resourcefulness, two challenges remain for which solutions are evasive: evil and death. After all our resourcefulness, the solutions to overcoming evil and death remain universal questions with no easy solutions. Can Christians offer comfort and perhaps a unique perspective?
I believe Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, along with the families of those killed, did that two weeks ago.
We live on a planet that has been invaded by evil forces, decay and death. Today, hardly a day goes by that we don’t see the proof of that. As followers of the way of Christ, we are called to be part of the solution even though these horrible issues are never solved. We are called to enter into the full experience of life, as Bonhoeffer put it, throwing ourselves “completely into the arms of God, living fully in the midst of life’s tasks, questions, successes and failures, experiences, and perplexities—then I no longer take seriously my own sufferings but rather the suffering of God in the world….We are to learn to understand ourselves now as those who have been placed on the way and no longer can do anything other than walk in it.”
The key to unlocking a relationship with God, knowing what Jesus would do, is the strong held belief that God in Jesus entered our world…the Word became human and made his HOME with us…entering into our space identifying with our suffering, weakness, sorrow, grief and, yes, even our sin…even though he himself did not sin.
Mark 1:21 begins, literally translated, “…they entered into Capernaum. The theme of “entering” cannot be missed in the verses that follow. Jesus—is entering into the lives of people in dramatic ways—especially those who have been closed out of the majority culture or by their own shame. Jesus entering into the lives of people who need healing and forgiveness…because he is moved by his compassion.
“Compassion” is a special theme of Jesus…he had empathy and identified with someone in need. Compassion is also a theme emphasized by the prophet Isaiah, Jesus’ favorite prophet. Jesus taught that God is the Compassionate One who comes to be present with us and delivers us, just as Isaiah taught. “Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.” (Isaiah 49:13 NLT)
Jesus overcomes their suffering. He chooses not to explain it. As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. (John 9:1-3 NLT)
There’s is suffering and evil in the world…we cannot deny it and God does not explain why he doesn’t remove it, but there is a purpose. “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death…” Says Paul. (Philippians 3:10 NLT) I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. (Ephesians 1:19-23 NLT)
Jesus suffers with us…He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. (Isaiah 53:3-4, 10-11 NLT)
I have no idea how I would react given the circumstances experienced at Emanuel Church…but I know the example they were to the family of believers inspired me…It inspired others, too, giving those not yet committed a reason to take a second look at Christ and what he can do…He does make a difference in our lives, or He should.