Sunday, March 9, 2014

Healing through Christ’s Sufferings

God lets Himself be pushed out of world on to the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which He is with us and helps us. Matt. 8:17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of His omnipotence, but by virtue of His weakness and suffering … Only the suffering God can help … That is a reversal of what the religious man expects from God. Man is summoned to share in God’s sufferings at the hands of a godless world.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Christianity is full of paradoxes but perhaps none bigger than a crucified Christ offering liberty from the power of the present time, from the laws and compulsion of history, and from sin. Only the crucified Christ can bring the freedom which changes the world because the fear of death is defeated. 

In his landmark work, The Crucified God, Jurgen Moltmann asserts, “We have made the bitterness of the Cross tolerable to ourselves by learning to understand it as a theological necessity for the process of salvation.” Of course, theological necessities do not sweat blood in the night. Yet the Son of God did.

“The passion of Jesus did not take place on a cold, intellectual, starlit plain,” declares Brennan Manning in his book The Signature of Jesus, “It occurred in the deepest expression of emotion, amid dirt and sweat, blood and tears. Christ’s passionate outpouring of love on the cross is not only the source of our salvation; it is the source of God’s power and wisdom in our daily lives.”

There is no mention in the gospel of Christ’s sufferings coming from nature or fate or from the economic hardships of being a carpenter’s son. "Rather, His [Jesus] sufferings and humiliation came from His actions," underscores Moltmann. "From His preaching of the imminence of the kingdom as a kingdom of unconditional grace, from His freedom towards the law, and from His table-fellowship with ‘sinners and tax-collectors.’ Jesus did not suffer passively from the world in which He lived, but incited it against Himself by His message and the life He lived. According to the gospels, Jesus Himself set out for Jerusalem and actively took the expected suffering upon Himself. The more the mysticism of the cross recognizes this, the less it can accept Jesus as an example of patience and submission to fate. The more it recognizes His active suffering, the less it can make Him the archetype of its own weakness. If men and women in misery understand Him as their brother in their sufferings, they in turn do not become imitators of His suffering until they accept His mission and actively follow Him.”

The cross of Christ is not some relic that we wear around our necks. In the first century, the crucified Christ was regarded as a scandal and as foolishness. As the Apostle Paul confirms in I Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

Today the church must turn to the crucified Christ in order to show the world the freedom He offers. Everything else is ornamental. Christ crucified is the very fingerprint of our faith.

Following Him means living dangerously and without compromise; it means living outside of our comfort zone and preconceived notions; it means reaching out to the outcast as well as the religious fanatic; quite simply it is having His signature written on the pages of our lives.

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