The Suffering Christ

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The common denominator between anyone and everyone in all of humanity is suffering. Suffering takes many forms, but it unites us in some shape and form. It is because of this, the Jesus I identify with is one who suffered.

Yet while I recognize when I look at crosses whether he’s on it or it is vacant, I identify with him suffering like us. It takes a God who is willing to hurt like us for me to love God that much more. If God was one who started the wheels of life in motion and walked away or backed out of the scene, I don’t think I could connect with such a God because it lacks warmth, it lacks humanity. There wouldn’t be that connection that I feel in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul if I had to somehow follow a God who couldn’t identify with my life and what I go through.
I know that in my personal life that some individuals I cannot truly identify with; I can’t identify with the issues a single mother faces who survives paycheck-to-paycheck just to put food in her children’s bellies, I can’t identify with being a young Gay man who grows up in a small conservative town where he’s told on a regular basis that being Gay is a sin and an abomination in the eyes of God, I can’t identify with a black guy who despite a rough upbringing he overcame odds and makes it in the corporate world only to suffer the duress of institutionalized racism…I can’t identify with these individuals, but I can empathize, and I can listen to them as they tell their stories, and I can BE with them.

I need a God in my life who can BE with me, which is why the face of God I so often see is a bedraggled, haggard, suffering HUMAN face. It is marred, it is ugly, it hurts like I hurt and yet…it is the face of love, the face of God-with-us, the face of a God who cared so much for ALL of humanity that he set forth to make things right between ALL of us, not just SOME of us.

In this Lenten season I am reminded time and time again of Christ and what he went through as he was with us, and it is encouraging in many ways but one that sticks to my mind regularly is the nature of “go[ing] and do[ing] likewise”. To be a part of humanity not apart from humanity, to love others and serve, to end paradigms that separate US and work towards bringing about perfect shalom and recognize the imago dei/image of God that we all bear. It is also within the context of the lenten season I am aware of where his end and resurrection is ultimately our beginning as well as our own resurrection. Easter brings it all into focus, it is about life and renewal, it is about order being restored and perfect shalom starting to take place with all of humanity.

Love won that day, and continues to win. Each day draws in a bit of perfect shalom for all of  us.
~Nathanael~

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One thought on “The Suffering Christ

  1. You’re so right. Two things came to mind. One is about how we can be with those people who suffer even if we cannot be what they are, that is, know the extent of thie suffering and experience it exactly as they do, but Jesus can. On a historical/social note, Jesus’ passion wasn’t only about the physical experience of pain, but about his becoming a total outcast and object of hate during that time. The scourging and crucifixion wasn’t about the pain at its center; the purpose was to humiliate, ridicule, and debase the person of all dignity and value. Some scholars suggested rape was included in this process. The public mocking was shameful. Nakedness and helplessness told the person suffering and those who saw her that she was worthless and deserved scorn. The culture at the time was such that Jesus’ sufferings essentially removed his humanity, making him on par with unclean animals, needing destruction. He was worse than a gentile. He was alienated from everyone in a time where family and friends made one whom one was, and even removed himself from his mother by giving her to John. He became sin. His own hope left him: he was the forsaken. You’re so right– this is the God we need because he fell to humanity’s depths.

    My second thought follows: Jesus fell to the lowest depths in life and death. There is no person outside his personal experience. And like you said, because Jesus became one of us, and God was his hope (even when he let his son die), we have hope.

    Thank you for this post.

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