September 17th, 2012On Sufferingby Kevin O'Brien | http://www.thewordinc.org

If we did not have a God Who suffers, none of this would make any sense.

Not the rape of children; not the justification of evil; not the helplessness and loneliness and fear of the victims. 

The love of spouses, the love of true friends, the sacrifice of lives - it would all seem to be a mere sick joke in the face of ultimate evil.  We would hesitate to call it "evil", since the "good" would seem so impotent.  We would become nihilists, materialists, mute ciphers in a world that was meaningless but that hurt.  And we couldn't even rage against the hurt - what good would it do?  "What is good?" anyway, as Pilate might have said, with that sophisticated smirk of his, that educated sneer - Pilate, who condemned Him to death and had an elaborate explanation for why it Really Wasn't His Own Fault for doing so.

But He hung there.  In full view, beaten, tortured, slowly dying.  Betrayed by a friend, abandoned by His Church, brutalized by His people and their occupiers alike.  Jew and Gentile, full of hatred for one another, united in that dark afternoon in their mutual hatred of Him.  How fun!  "Why can't we all just get along?"  Maybe we can, to tear apart and crucify the only purely Good man who ever lived.  Peace be with you.  And with your spirit.  Now let's kill Him.

He did not turn from them when they spat upon Him.  He did not return curses for curses.  He did not reject our rejection of Him, our abuse, the worst we had to offer.  We gave it to Him, and we give it to one another. 

We give it to one another but we tell ourselves we're justified, or we're not really sinning, or there are mitigating circumstances, and whatever we do, it's Never Really Our Own Fault for doing it.  We told ourselves that we were doing good that day we crucified Him, after all - the day the sun stopped shining.  Our intentions are good, we say, and we throw up whatever excuse suits us, and keep right on hurting and hating and hailing the Coming of the Kingdom of Hell.  And we're not that bad after all - we leave our home-made Calvary and go to Church and clap along to the guitars and listen to the preacher tell us how much God loves us and "Why can't we all just get along?"  Peace be with you.  Pass the remote.  I'm spiritual, not religious.  Gimme some Jesus, but get rid of that cross.  It tends to trouble my guilty conscience.

There is a dark and awful thing inside of us.  On the one hand, it's an evil that makes us want to hurt people.  On the other, it's a terrible hurt, a suffering from the evil that's been done to us.  I don't think we have any clue about the depths of secret suffering in our fellow man.  If we saw the pain that our neighbor lives with every single day, and if we saw how that pain was, in some cases, deliberately inflicted, or inflicted out of simple to-hell-with-you negligence - with the best of intentions, of course - by people who were simply out for themselves, we'd go mad.

In fact, the truth of human nature was never better revealed than on that day when the sun died and the earth gave up its breath in a terrible heave - that day when we all stood around jeering at Him.  There is no king but Caesar.  There is no god but Mammon.  There is no god but Nothing.  And to hell with You, savior!  To hell with You.

Such is the tableau.  Such is the eternal picture, the archetype of Human Life.


But in the midst of that, He redeems us.  It is not a senseless murder, a meaningless act of brutality. 

It is a sacrifice. 

And it is the Reality behind Life Itself.

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