Redemptive Suffering: Judaism, Christianity, & Islam

Go outside the gate to the wandering peoples.

Go outside the gate to the wandering peoples.

Ashura is the day when Shi’ites comemoratethe martyrdom of Mohammad ‘s grandson, Hussein son of Ali. Some Shi’ites cut themselves with knives and chains to identify with the suffering of Hussein. One saying goes, `A single tear shed for Hussein washes away a hundred sins.`”
http://www.LoveSaudis.com
This Shi’ite holiday took place last week.

In Judaism and Christianity, there is also a certain amount of truth to the fact that suffering is redemptive. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it was a truism, that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness required bloodshed.

Perhaps the clearest place where this is taught in the New Testament is the Letter to Hebrews. In the Mosaic Law, the sacrificial laws of Leviticus are clearly explications of the principle of life for life via blood. However, the levitical sacrifices had to be continually offered. Those sacrifices & ashes were then taken outside to camp. Sin was removed as the sacrifice was removed.

When Jesus came, he preached the truth in love and then was rejected by His people. He too went outside the gate and suffered “outside the camp” thus removing the sin of the people against him outside the camp. He took away sin once for all.

Now Christians, whenever we are oppressed and opposed for taking a stand for truth in love and love in truth, whenever we suffer rejection, we can still praise the Lord knowing He has a plan for that rejection, namely to remove the sins of those who oppose. We leave people who oppress alone in order to allow them to find peace. We move on and allow the people we were reaching previously to reconsider.

In my own life, I have been removed from a number of jobs. Those which I most enjoyed have either regretted disallowing my role or have found a way to reincorporate me. Is that because I am special? No. It is because all those were works of reconciliation. Actually, that is the goal of life: reconciliation. We are born alienated from God and must be reconciled to God. While children are born somewhat innocent, they bear the guilt of previous generations. They inherit the load, genetic or social or moral or whatever you want to call it, that separates them from the peace God intends. However, by regularly leaving previous situations we have gotten ourselves into and the associated sins, we find ourselves gradually liberated to serve the living God with the Good News of Redemption.

Increasingly, we become better and better bearers to truth and purer and purer in our love for others.

Lest anyone believe that by their migrations they have already achieved perfection, if you are lowly enough to browse the internet, you are not perfected in the glories of heaven where people praise God perpetually. So then, what must we do? Praise God as much as you can now. Spend your days invested in the glories of grace by talking about Jesus.

You say, but that would be very unproductive!

Ah, what do you have to do that would be better than praising Jesus? Whipping yourself with and lacerating your skin? Let me urge you to press in to Christ and not to give up. Focus on Jesus in all you do.

Last week, my wife & I went to a lecture by John Lennox … however we were turned away due to the crowds. The theme of the discussion was going to be, “Does science need God?”

Let’s tie these two questions together: suffering & science and the redemptive power God in both.

Science ultimately has no real reason for why there is suffering. It can only say that there is. It cannot answer the question of why we are so dissatisfied with suffering if indeed death has been there from the beginning. So the Bible’s account of Eden when all was innocent is better than naturalistic, uniformitarian declarations. It is what it is is not a very satisfying truism.

God is who He is. Or better, God said, “I am who I am” That same “I am” has sent me to share this thought: we suffer because the human race falls short of God’s standards. All other discussions of secondary causation such as social pressure, genetic mutation, gravity, entropy, fall short if the question of Why? is left unanswered.

Pragmatic science is unsatisfying. Just like Adam was unsatisfied with naming animals until he named his wife and sang a love song over her, so all fields of science are meant to serve human society, and these are best accomplished when done in the covenant of love that God gives the human race.

So we see that even the Shoah, the Holocaust could be redeemed. God used it to motivate much of the West to call for an Independent nation for the Jews: Israel was nearly born in a day, as Isaiah had prophecied.

Now, do you want to redeem your suffering? Are you rejected by those who are powerful and prominent? Then go to those who are not so significant in your community. Go to those who are regarded as the nobodies. Sit beside those that the world laughs at. Hug the crying. Pray for those who are sick. Read to those who cannot read for themselves. Sing with a lonely child who longs to sing to the King.

There are so many ways you can go outside the gate as Jesus did. Don’t wait. Go today. God will go with you and then you will smile in His presence.

Categories: Good News, Islam, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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