January 12, 2011

Evil & Suffering XXV: Jesus: The Suffering Servant-Part II

The last biblical defense I would like to pose as the need for suffering in a human’s life is again found in Hebrews. It is in this passage that we see the solid connection between the life of Christ and His suffering and the parallel in our lives as Christians striving to be like Christ.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5: 8-10)

What we see in this passage is that Jesus needed to learn obedience (in His human body) through suffering. This doesn’t mean he was disobedient but rather that He learned lessons just as others in a human body that can only be learned through suffering. Temptations, exhaustions, mental anguish because of the limitations of the human mind, etc. Having suffered these things (and the crucifixion) Jesus could better identify with what it is to be human. Having done this He was made perfect (through suffering). He became the only suitable source for eternal salvation for those that obey Him. If it was deemed appropriate that the God-man should suffer to be made perfect it is almost obscene to think that we should not. Why should mankind be excused from suffering if we are the source of the evil and sin that Christ had to suffer and die for? This is an abhorrent thought to me that is a vanity and conceit that approaches blasphemy and should be rebuked. Suffering is intrinsically part of what it means to be Christian (and human for that matter). It is through the lens of Christianity that we begin to see through the glass (albeit darkly) a suitable reasoning for the need of suffering, pain and even God working through the evil. We see God has purposely extracted that reason directly out of sin we’ve created (and which He has allowed) to shape a workable scenario for our eventual eternal benefit and salvation. The ultimate paradox and juxtapose of ontological opposites: Eternal joy and glory that needs to be preceded by a “trial of fire” or enduring evil, suffering and pain. The evil and suffering that needed to proceed the Crucifixion which inevitably brought glory.

“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" Mark 8:34-36

In the end we see that through a supreme act of sacrifice and endurance of suffering, evil is once and for all defeated at the cross. It is still appointed to man to die once and then be judged but thanks to the sufferings of Christ, we will be judged righteous because of our faith. As for answering why God allows evil and suffering I didn’t find a conclusive reason why because it is not for me to know the mind of God. What I have done is offer the best conclusions based on my research and understanding. What I have learned is that He is indeed all-powerful and benevolent for Scripture tells me so. At the same time He allows evil and suffering for a multitude of reasons. To even be able to comprehend why God allows evil and suffering, one must start with the right worldviews and presuppositions. I believe the only worldview that can provide a satisfactory reasoning is the Christian worldview. It is a view that allows for some form of free will to choose between good and evil. The Bible supports this hypothesis. Whether or not God can or will work providentially through choices of evil is evident in the Crucifixion of Jesus, the story Joseph, and the traitor Judas. How it is done isn’t necessarily the main point. Why it is done is. That underlying main point is how all the actions and movements within the Creation invariably bring glory to God.

To be truthful, I did not get any farther than Job or his “friends” did when they questioned or presupposed God and His motives for doing things. For me to question God even further than Job only serves to continue to darken the Lord’s counsel with more words from my mouth that are without knowledge. So I remain humble and contrite in His presence even if it means suffering to the point of death.

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