Posts Tagged: suffering

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"God died for you and for me and for that leper and for that person dying of hunger and for that person on the street…. It’s not enough to say that you love God. You also have to say you love your neighbor. Love, to be true, has to hurt. This requires people giving until it hurts. Otherwise it is not true love… Be the good news to your home people first. Find out about your next-door neighbor."

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-Mother Teresa, as she dedicated a convent in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1995; c.f. “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas; “Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” Charlotte Observer (June 14, 1995)

Honestly, I think I would be terrified to meet Mother Teresa. Honored, but terrified. From what I’ve read, it seems like she was a spitfire, not afraid to tell people her mind, sometimes to the point of bossiness. But this came from a place of conviction, her confidence in what she was doing was right.

What she says here is incredibly challenging. “Love, to be true, has to hurt.” This week in women’s Bible study, we discussed Jesus’ crucifixion and the question: Why did Jesus have to suffer physical pain as He died?

When I think about the sacrificed that the Israelites once offered as atonement for sin, I don’t envision the flogging of a lamb. I envision the clean slitting of a throat, a quick death. But for Jesus, the sacrifice was different— it was messy, it was horrific, it was profoundly unfair. And through it all, his mother Mary watched and as Simeon prophesied to Mary in Luke 2:35, “And a sword will pierce your very soul” as she watched Jesus suffer and die in excruciating pain.

As hard as it is to imagine what Jesus’ sacrifice is like, it does convey that the sacrifice was important and authentic. That God takes seriously anything that might make us distant from Him (sin) and that Jesus’ love isn’t about words or little actions. It’s about giving up a life.

For us, words and little actions are important. Because love starts with being willing to give up our entire lives to God and other people. But it’s not about what’s safe, what little part of our lives we are willing to give on certain times when it’s convenient.

Sometimes it’s the giving up of a grudge against someone who has wronged us. Sometimes it’s spending time with someone who you don’t really like to show them that someone cares. Sometimes it’s choosing to work in a field that doesn’t pay very much so you can serve. Sometimes it’s holding your tongue when someone makes a false accusation against you. Sometimes it’s giving up a friend who makes you think about the world in a cynical way. I don’t know what it is for you. But these are the little ways we can choose to hurt for the sake of love.

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What do you think God is like?

Gerbil: He’s from da hood!

Bear: Okay…

Dolphin: Well, Jesus did hang out with prostitutes.

Bear: True. Jesus did hang out with prostitutes and He cares for the poor and people in difficult situations. You’re right, Jesus is from da hood.

Anteater: Beyond comprehension. That’s why we need Him in situations that we can’t explain.

Bear: You mean when there’s suffering or tragedy or natural disasters?

Anteater: Not just that. He’s also too great for us to totally understand.

Panda: Forgiving. He forgives us even when we do bad things that aren’t mistakes.

Bear: Why do you think God has big ears?

Tiger: Because He can hear everything!

Beagle: If we take the model that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we can listen more than we speak, then God having big ears means that He listens to us.

Dear God,

Thank you for being from da hood, for hanging out with prostitutes and for caring for the poor and for meeting us in hard places.

Thank you for being a God who is beyond comprehension, who is so awesome and loving and outside of time that we can’t ever totally understand you.

Thank you for being a God who is forgiving, who loves us even when we do bad things that aren’t mistakes.

Thank you for being a God with big ears, who hears everything and loves us just the same. Help us learn that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen more than we talk.

Thank you most of all for sending Jesus to die on the cross for us, so we know that we can pray to your big ears and that you will listen.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen (so be it).