Chapter 13: Suffering
I am in Long Beach, California sitting in a fairly dark room thinking, praying, and waiting for what the Lord has in store for today. I’m attending the National Multi-cultural Church Conference with 1,000 other attendees (and you can follow the conference via live streaming and through the Twitter hashtag #Mosaix2013). For me the experience of the conference started yesterday morning at 4:00 am on the East Coast where I rose early to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight. I flew for half of the day (which actually turned out to be 11 hours of being awake). (I don’t sleep well on airplanes.) The remainder of the day included a lunch date, an interview, and attending a sponsor dinner last night where Dr. John M. Perkins, a fearless proclaimer of the gospel of Jesus Christ and an advocate for justice and reconciliation, was the keynote speaker. As I listened intently at Dr. Perkins message, I was humbled and amazed at the presence of the goodness that God wants to see in his creation and the love that motivated God to send his Son to die. It is Christ alone who reconciles. And as I sat there with my weary eyes (I had been without sleep for 21 hours at that point in the evening), I was literally reminded of why it is critical that we are not asleep as Christians to the fallenness of this world when we should actually be awake. In the times of desperation and in the moments when we are faced with life and death situations, our Savior calls us to pray. We shall not fall asleep like his friends, Peter, James, and John, in the Garden of Gethsemane! We are called to watch and pray so we can stand against injustices in this world and resist the schemes of the evil one. Dr. Perkins reminded us that living the whole gospel is urgent and it requires intentional obedience to answer the calls of God, and he did this by informing us of his own journey of suffering and the importance of grace and love, all of which Mark Labberton addressed in the twelfth chapter of his book, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus.
Concerning the topic of grace, Labberton asks the question, “Why don’t we (the church) get it?” He writes:
Christian history is not just littered but filled with Jesus’ followers failing to pass on what they have been given. We could point to the large, public displays of this disjunction, such as the defense of slavery, the abuse of women, the Inquisitions, the Crusades, or the church’s silence and even participation in various genocides. All that would be indicting enough.
More frequently, however, we could just point to ordinary, daily acts of prejudice, hatred, disdain, neglect, indifference and self-absorption revealing that, if we have received grace, we have hoarded it (Ex 16) (pg. 180).
“If we have received grace, we have hoarded it.” Meditate on that statement for a moment. The good news of the gospel reminds us of our individual salvation, yes, but it also reminds us of what we have been saved—by God’s grace—from, how God has called us to live as a community of believers, and the hope that we have to look forward to in him. “…the good news [is] that Jesus saw and named me in love for the sake of my salvation. He delivered me from my petty and broken self—but it was not for my sake alone. God’s grace was for the sake of loving others well, especially as one who was discovering what it was to long to be fully known, fully loved, and who was finding that in the embrace of Jesus Christ (pg. 181).”
Here is the reality: We are all surrounded by people who are lost, lonely, and in need of God’s love and grace. We were all created for worship and we were created for community. We all want to be fully known and fully loved. Dr. Perkins reminded us last night that in order to come to God and receive these blessings, we must be broken. We must literally be humbled and broken over our own sin and we must confess and repent. May God continue to break our hearts again and again for the things that break His heart. In Christ’s love, © Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013
Personal Reflection and the charge to “Wake Up”: Focus on some headline[s] crisis of need in the world and personalize your relationship to the concern (e.g. “my brother in Darfur,” “my cousin with AIDS in Malawi,” “my friend uncharged but imprisoned in Manila”). Write your thoughts and feelings and actions and how they are changed by “my (pg. 186).”
Catch Up on the Discussion:
Introduction: Dangerous Act and a Heart Like the Grinch
Chapter 1: Stop Rubbernecking, It’s Dangerous
Chapter 2: WE See No Evil
Chapter 3: Injustice and the Problem of Misperceiving
Chapter 4: Learning to See
Chapter 5: Looking in the Mirror
Chapter 6: God Help Us
Chapter 7: Choosing to Name
Chapter 8: Why Naming Matters
Chapter 9: The Power of a Name
Chapter 10: Distorted Names
Chapter 11: Changing Names
Chapter 12: Living and Bankrupt