This summer I spent some time with a group of evangelizers as they considered the hardships and persecution of former Muslims who had recently become Christian due to their mission efforts. These new Christians had been blocked from access to their village well, had been physically attacked, and were ostracized by their own families. The converts’ lives were in perpetual danger, and several of them were considering committing suicide rather than being at the mercy of their attackers and living outside the community and family of which they ahd always been part. Some of the evangelizers were exultant about this persecution, because it signified to them a glorious victory for the cause of Christianity and they hoped that the converts – if they were able to stick to their new faith – would be a powerful testimony to others. I confess I was horrified that the evangelizers didn’t seem to think that the converts’ human suffering mattered much in comparison to the glory of the salvation of their souls. This is what I think of when I think of the dangers of resurrection faith that is not held in balance by the crucifixion side of Christian faith.
As readers of my blog will know, my own faith arose out of an experience of suffering (1/10/08 blog entry), and it was only later that the joyful side of faith, what I call “resurrection faith”, became part of my relationship with God. So when I venture into this topic, I’m not coming at it with a basis in my own experience, but from a reasoning perspective.
What I can say is that I am incapable of comprehending a faith that isn’t affected by physical or emotional suffering, or doesn’t address God in relationship to suffering (theodicy is the fancy word for it). To me, the Bible seems to be full of stories of God’s presence when people suffer, and God’s desire and actions to lead people out of slavery and other forms of misery. Incarnation, whether we’re talking about God in human flesh in Jesus or the Spirit infusing each human on earth as in “that of God in every [person]”, seems to me to require us to embrace the physical aspect of our being, not just the spiritual and other-wordly. Is it possible to be human without encountering suffering?
To care only about the immortal soul at the expense of the physical body seems to me to be wrong. But it is equally wrong to focus only on avoiding physical or emotional suffering at the expense of the immortal soul. I don’t think a soul does well when it is only pampered and stroked and removed from potential pain.
Query for prayerful consideration:
Are hope (resurrection) and suffering (crucifixion) in balance within my soul?