“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, December 28, 2012

Entering into the suffering of others

We are in the midst of the Christmas season.  To the Christian, Christmas is about God "emptying himself and taking the form of a servant" (as it says in Philippians 2).  To use human terms, Jesus as God was having this perfect existence as God.  But He saw the desperate condition of His creation and came to them to save them, to give them hope, to be with them as they are.  Once again as Philippians says, "He didn't think equality with God was a thing to be grasped" or held onto.  He left his perfect existence to help us who have no perfection.

I have been thinking about this idea a lot.  I know very little about suffering compared with probably most of the rest of the people in the world.  I have a perfect family, a perfect job, dear friends, have never known hunger or want.  Yet all around me are people who for a variety of reasons experience all forms of suffering.  If I am to follow the example of Christ, I will recognize that perhaps I am not experiencing suffering, at the moment, so that I can support and come alongside of those who are.  As my son has told me, he has wept over suffering, but not his own.  Rather it is the suffering of others that he has entered into.

Hurting people are a morass of difficulty sometimes.  If we try to dance around them with platitudes we may help a bit, but we will not know their suffering.  People's lives are often a mess, and you cannot help if you do not get messy yourself.  A homeless man that I know has often told me that I want to take "an arm's distance approach to helping" meaning that I am not willing to dive into the difficulty that is his life.  I am sure there is some truth to that.

1 Corinthians 12 talks about the body of Christ as a metaphor for the church.  It says if one part suffers the whole body suffers.  I don't think that is true.  Perhaps that is the way it is supposed to be but I don't see that being practiced to the degree it should be.  In order for me to suffer with you, I need to enter into your suffering in some significant way.  For you to suffer with others, you must enter into their suffering in some way.  I can't really tell you how to do that, for you, but you won't have to look to far to find hurting people whose lives are a mess.

Follow the Christmas message of Christ who although He was in the form of God did not hold onto his right to be left alone as God, but humbled himself and took the form of a servant.  Why he would want to enter into the sinful muck that is our lives is unfathomable.  But He did it out of love which is a good motivation for us as well.