GM: ONE DAY GOD WILL WIPE AWAY EVERY TEAR; THE ETERNAL HOPE OF THOSE WHO TRUST IN HIM
I began writing this message during my early morning devotions yesterday. Put it on pause and went work and had to deal with the tragedy of two sons, two brothers, who died in a car crash in Florida. In my office!
And at another level, process the news of the death of three persons who died in a crash in Jamaica the evening before. #PainandSuffering
And so I continued to write last night and finished this morning.
After the debate about the reasons behind the #OrlandoKillings – Muslim extremism, hate crime, closet homosexual dealing with his own demons, or all of the above – and the responses – consolation or ‘insensitivity’ – long after that debate has died, the pain and the grief and the suffering will continue.
So too the debate in my country on the best way to put an end to a culture which has spawned the hashtag #QuadrupleMurders!
For long after we decide whether to allow more citizens, properly vetted, to carry a gun, the latest proposal, or institute community policing, or to ‘ get the guns’, or grow the economy, or to put in place the right social policies, or to convince the USA to stem the flow of weapons from their country, or to ‘ fix family life’, the pain and the grief of the families of relatives who have been murdered, will continue.
And in almost all cases, whether in
increasingly secular America or ‘ God fearing ‘, Jamaica (according to what we say, but not what we do) the Church of Jesus Christ will play a major role in offering comfort and in the burial ceremony for the dead.
Regardless of what kind of life that person lived, even self confessed atheists! For despite their often much trumpeted unbelief in God, and little interest in Christian spirituality, the relatives will always find a way to have a Christian funeral. Reality!
In the midst of this reality, in the instance case crime and violence, but for many others it is Cancer, broken or ‘ troubled’ relationships or injustice, which is the cause of the suffering, we turn back to Rev.Timothy Keller. And his book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering!
Consider the this declaration:
The secular view ( Remember the ‘ Immanent Frame…I am in charge of my own destiny…. Really!) of life does not work for most people in the face of suffering.
Which is then followed later on by another critique:
” But perhaps suffering’s main challenge to secular culture is that it reveals the thinness of the World Story they give to their adherents…..every culture must give its people a story, an overarching narrative, about what human life is all about”.
Then Keller, drawing on the work of a prominent writer, shares the view that a cultural narrative must achieve two things.
One, give people hope. And two, enable a society to cohere ( to be cohesive, to work together for the common good….my words) instead of atomize into a million individual parts.
And further that at the heart of every story is a big idea, ” what life is all about”, that enables the people of a society to identify themselves.
And in that respect the writer, Andrew Delbanco, traces, in his view, the three. big ideas of the American culture – God, Nation and Self. With Self the now dominant Big Idea! Leaving God in the ‘ wake ‘; there, but unimportant.
The challenge for all countries who seek to penetrate, with their goods and services, the biggest market in the world, is that trade and relationships with the USA is a two way street. And along with KFC, Burgher King and Pepsi come secular American Big Ideas about the importance of self, and the diminution of the importance of God. So too trade and relationships with the European Union #Brexit or not!.
And such Big Ideas often hitch a ride on the back of CNN, Netflix and iTunes, and Foreign Direct Investment and loans from Multilateral Institutions
Therefore if Christians wish to maintain a viable presence in Jamaica, and penetrate the secular culture in North America, we have to face this reality. And encourage each other with profoundly powerful words from St. Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthian Church:
” For though we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world ( Savy media presence, and sophisticated arguments). On the contrary they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”
2. Cor. 10:3-5. NIV
And the only divine power available to Christians to demolish strongholds of Secularism is the Name and Word of God, which come together in the person of Christ Jesus.
” Thy Word and thy Name O God, thou has exalteth above all things, declares the Psalmist.
Our challenge then as children of God, living in a broken world, where violent crime can erupt in a moment, where disease can decimate entire villages( Ebola), where hurricanes ( Wild Gilbert, Katrina) and earthquakes and Tsunamis can kill and maim and disrupt the lives of thousands at a time (New Orleans is yet to recover from Katrina), where sudden death is literally a heart beat away, all leading to tremendous Pain and Suffering, is to represent Christ. The Suffering Savior, to all who are in need!
This is the Big Idea of Christianity via a vis the ‘enthronement of self’, the ‘ small and unsustainable idea’ of the secular world. A world where Self and Nation ( and probably Messi and Christiano Ronaldo and Lebron and Curry) rank above God.
And this Big Idea tells us that the greatest cause of Pain and Suffering is Sin and Death. Both of which were defeated on the Cross of Calvary. And thus our hope in this Big Idea of God, is that one day, in Christ God Himself will ‘ wipe away every tear’. So death and pain and suffering on earth do not have the final say.
In this hope, and armed with the love of God, early Christians in the Roman empire, when their own people abandoned them when pestilence struck, Christians remained to care for the sick, and to die with them. And by this Christianity took root in the Roman empire and spread across the world according to Augustine in his Classic Book ” The City of God”.
All because we have a better Hope in Christ Jesus than the secular world. And that we cared.
It is this Hope then, that ” By His Stripes we are healed”, we as representatives of the Suffering and Crucified Christ can offer God’s love to all humanity in the midst of their suffering, and encourage them to Trust in a loving God and not ‘ self actualization’ – the buzzword of the 21st century.
Whether in Secular North America and Europe! Whether in religious Muslim countries! And whether in marginally Christian countries like Jamaica where people ‘ fear Father God, but are not prepared to ‘ follow Christ’, the Suffering One.
But first we have to sing, and accept the precious words of one of the all time great hymns which came into my mind this week.
I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith,
And be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.
Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the pow’r of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.
O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend!
There are depths of love that I yet may know
till I cross the narrow sea;
there are heights of joy that I yet may reach
till I rest in peace with Thee.