What We Have Suffered Will Wither Away

What can possibly help us cope with the sad, sorry state of affairs that we encounter in this life?

This past week has brought this question to the forefront of a lot of our collective hearts and minds. At Christ Church Mansfield this past Sunday, we found hope in God our strength and our refuge, the God of Jacob, from Psalm 46, and saw that it is the presence of God with us in the pain, rather than the mere absence of pain, that helps us get through life.

lightstock_190452_medium_user_3970569But we never get through unscathed nor unscarred.

So where does my hope for a better future that sustains me in the brutal present come from? How, once again, can we make it through?

One author helped me appreciate that all this pain and suffering and sorrow will not disappear, but simply “wither away.”

“What we have suffered weighs us down like a heavy load we long to have lifted; like an indefatigable enemy, it assails us relentlessly.  The wreckage of history – a trail of shattered beauty, defiled goodness, twisted truths, streams of tears, rivers of blood, mountains of corpses – must somehow be mended.  That the past must and will be redeemed is a conviction essential to the Christian notion of redemption.”

“Will we let go of them [memories] so as to be able to rejoice with complete and permanent joy in God and in one another?  No, that is not quite the right way to think about the not-coming-to-mind of memories of wrongs suffered.  We will not ‘forget’ so as to be able to rejoice; we will rejoice and therefore let those memories slip out of our minds!  The reason for our non-remembrance of wrongs will be the same as its cause: Our minds will be rapt in the goodness of God and in the goodness of God’s new world, and the memories of wrongs will whither away like plants without water.”

– Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World (pgs. 42, and 214)

 

 

Food for Thought: Innocence, Victimization and Otherness in Our Civil Discourse

The past few weeks have seen a myriad of eruptions among Christians of all stripes in our country.  I have been encouraged by some of the discourse, but disheartened by most (here is an example of an excellent article).  The following quote by Miroslav Volf has helped me wrap my head and my heart around the problems inherent in these kinds of debates – we try to delineate too neatly between the “right” and the “wrong” over these issues, blaming the other for all that is wrong, and exempting ourselves in the process.  Just once, I would like to see the flavor of our rhetoric match the flavor of God’s love, mercy and grace each of us have received in Jesus.

“Solidarity in sin underscores that no salvation can be expected from an approach that rests fundamentally on the moral assignment of blame and innocence.  The question cannot be how to locate ‘innocence’ ether on the intellectual or social map and work our way toward it.  Rather, the question is how to live with integrity and bring healing to a world of inescapable non innocence that often parades as its opposite.  The answer: in the name of the only truly innocent victim and what he stood for, the crucified Messiah of God, we should damask as inescapably sinful the world constructed around exclusive moral polarities – here, on our side, ‘the just’, ‘the pure,’ ‘the innocent,’ ‘the true,’ ‘the good,’ and there, on the other side, ‘the unjust,’ ‘the corrupt,’ ‘the guilty,’ ‘the liars,’ ‘the evil’ – and then seek to transform the world in which justice and injustice, goodness and evil, innocence and guilt, purity and corruption, truth and deception crisscross and intersect, guided by the recognition that the economy of undeserved grace has primacy over the economy of moral deserts. Under the conditions of pervasive non innocence, the work of reconciliation should proceed under the assumption that, though the behavior of a person may be judged as deplorable, even demonic, no one should ever be excluded form the will to embrace, because, at the deepest level, the relationship to others does not rest on their moral performance and therefore cannot be undone by the lack of it….[At] the core of the Christian faith lies the persuasion that the ‘others’ need not be perceived as innocent in order to be loved, but ought to be embraced even when they are perceived as wrongdoers.” – Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation (84-85)

In Honor of Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King, Jr

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” 

– Martin Luther King Jr.

The Passion Facade at Gaudi's Sagrada Familia

UPDATE: If you would like to expand your horizons on the subject of race relations and how the gospel effects us in the area of our biases, let me recommend the following books:

Keep Your Head Up: America’s New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation  edited by Anthony Bradley

Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf

Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian by John Piper

The Flow of God’s Gifts

The following quote is great. I love Volf. His insights are penetrating and challenging. And a friend of mine, Jonathan McIntosh who is preaching on the topic of Consummation/Heaven this week made me think of this quote.

The flow of God’s gifts is not aimless spillage. It aims to create human givers and, after they have fallen into sin, to redeem them and finally, to glorify them in perfect communion with God and one another. The flow of gifts is God’s arms opened to the world, enabling us to partake of the gift exchange that makes up eternal divine life and supreme divine bliss. This is our best hope for the world to come: to “enjoy God” by receiving divine gifts and to enjoy one another in God in a perfect exchange of gifts with one another.” – Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving & Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

Of course some would object to Volf’s use of plural gifts instead of the singular gift, but that to me is splitting hairs. The gift God gives us in the Son effects multiple gifts to His people, some being reconciliation with God, reconciliation with one another, the ability to live new lives for His glory, etc.

Still, I leave this for you, the world to enjoy!

Noboy’s a Nobody and An Arrow Needs a Bow

Miroslav VolfI recently came across a great article by Miroslav Volf called “The Ultimate Somebody” reflecting on the recent passing of a friend and major influence on his life, a friend named is Toma.  Here is a snippet. I would highly recommend reading the whole thing here.

Can an arrow forget the bow that set it flying? Many an arrow does, even though its very flight is a testimony to the bow’s influence. It is especially easy to forget the shaping power of those whom illness takes out of the company of the “sane” and the “respectable.” But even when I fail to remember how formative Toma was for me, the trajectory of my life is a silent memorial to him. Maybe his was a truly Christian way of being somebody—being a bow for the flight of another.

And, if you’re looking for a good book to read around Christmas holidays, I would say that his book Exclusion and Embrace makes a great read, and a great gift!  You can buy it here.