In which I preach to myself and maybe others

April 2, 2007

These few weeks of April are among my favorite because so many trees and plants have their brief period of flowering before turning a uniform green. Spring makes it nearly impossible not to think of new life as buds emerge and the air turns refreshingly warm.

Yet this spring I see so much suffering, frankly so much death. Nancy’s son-in-law, a mere 25 years old, is dying at the James Cancer Center, and will leave behind a lovely young wife. Tim’s mom and my mom fight their cancers and this week we get news as to the exact states of those scourges…I find it ironic in this season, in this Easter week, to confront so much pain and potential death. Yet as I’ve been thinking about it and as I prayed at church this morning, it occured to me that the threat of death is never far from any of us in this life. No new news to me or anyone I’m sure. But what I also remembered, what God brought to my mind, is that the whole life of Jesus is emeshed in the very death we all fear. I have known for many years that God brought judgement to bear upon His precious son Jesus at that cross, that Jesus’ died to give the rest of us life, to spare us the frightening judgement of God.

I tend to shy away from thinking about God’s judgement. I feel acutely aware that I deserve that judgement, that I am selfish and self-centered, that I mess up the same things over and over, not unlike a toddler trying to get her way by lying on the kitchen tile and screaming and kicking. But the older I get and the more suffering I observe and experience, the more confident I am that a God of judgement is imminently necessary and important. Too often we try to de-claw God in a sense, to tame Him, but as C.S. Lewis says of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, “He is good but He is not tame.” And thank God for that because too much goes unanswered for in this life. Too much suffering, too much death simply happens because of the evil of this world. Twenty five year old men should not die of cancer, leaving a widow in the wake of a such grisely, drawn out suffering. We know this. Intuitively, we know that there’s something horribly horribly wrong with that picture. We think of the Holocaust and the Killing Fields and we know because we know because we know that such injustice — injustice against those most innocent and unable to fight back — should be answered for.

And it will. Because God, who is the very definition of mercy and love, is also righteous and just. I am realizing that God doesn’t simply judge individuals for their actions, but judges death itself. He did not create us to die. We were not created to get sick and sicker and eventually die. But death holds dominion over each of us right now — and that is the key — right now. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and ower. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Cancer: you will answer for Mike. For my mom. For so many others. God will destroy you, even as He in His great mercy saves his beloved.

John McCollum talks sometimes of the Killing Fields in Cambodia, an atrocity to which I confess general ignorance before I knew him. Children — children like Rob, Dan and Abby — were murdered in hideous ways, beaten against trees, simply for being. Please, oh God, pass judgement on the suffering your dear ones endured.

Too often I think that I want a sort of mamby-pamby God who loves everyone and forgives everything without also embracing the very aspect of God that allows Him to love and forgive: his judgement. Jesus died for every one of us and on judgement day we can choose to be viewed through the lens of His perfection or through the lens of our own evil. Evil isn’t out there, it’s right in here. In me. In you. Just because I didn’t stand beside a murderer in Cambodia many years ago doesn’t exempt me from judgement. Jesus has exempted me.

So Easter will be here next week and we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the foundation of the Christian faith. But I will also celebrate a God who loves each of us enough to judge death.

Again, 1 Corinthians 15: 54-56: When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

Where O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is the only answer that makes any sense. Thanks be to Him indeed.

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2 Responses to “In which I preach to myself and maybe others”

  1. Andy Anderson said

    Wow… this is exactly the type of response I’ve been trying to come up with to answer people who ask me how I could possibly still be a Christian after things that happen personally in my life, after things that happen in my friend’s lives, etc. It is comforting to know that there will be a judgement, not only on the PEOPLE responsible for suffering in the world, but also on the DISEASES that ravage peoples lives.

    It’s difficult to explain to people that sin is the root cause of every human problem on the earth, because so many people are unwilling to admit that sin exists. But it does, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair that Satan still has dominion over the earth and that he can cause disease, suffering, and unbelievable atrocities. But he will answer for all of this, along with the suffering he caused.

    I echo Karen. AMEN!

    Andy

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