Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jesus of the Scars

One of the most difficult questions in the world that a Christian must face is the question of a good, loving, sovereign God and the existence of evil in this world. How is it that a good, loving, and sovereign God can allow, and even ordain, evil and suffering of the most extreme magnitude to exist in this world? I have studied much on this issue and have found many helpful truths by careful Bible study, listening to sermons, reading theological book... but at the end of the day, I have to confess that so much of this is beyond my understanding. This is even more so when I, or someone close to me, undergoes suffering. In the midst of grief, the fight of faith is often the most difficult.

However, there is one thing of which I am certain. The only way I can begin to grapple with the problem of evil and suffering is by first coming to the cross of Jesus Christ. There, the same good, loving, and sovereign God became man and entered into the very experience of evil and suffering that we experience in this world.

Edward Shillito was an English Congregationalist minister who survived the horrors of artillery, machine guns, and trench warfare during World War I. As he reflected on his experience, he found peace only when he considered the suffering and death of Christ and he wrote the poem below, entitled "Jesus of the Scars". As you read this, I hope you also will look to the suffering Savior, and there, find peace in the midst of the suffering in your life.
If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place;
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Perspective

I had lunch with an Iranian pastor today and among many other things, I got to hear him share about how hard it has been to learn to forgive as a Christian. Before the revolution, his father worked as a security officer for the king and when the revolution happened, his family lost everything and barely had food to eat. He and his family became a Christian after that time, and this doubled the hardship they experienced. He shared about how his brother-in-law was once going to work late at night and was stopped by a patrol. While reaching for his ID, they shot him and killed him, leaving his sister a widow with three children. In order to reclaim the body, the government demanded payment for the bullets, demanding an inexorbitant price for each bullet. As poor as they were, they were never able to reclaim the body. On another occasion, his nephew became extremely sick and yet his family could not afford to purchase medical care for him and he died a slow, painful death. He shared many other stories like this. He confessed his struggle to forgive those who had so harmed his family, and how he often refused to witness to government workers because he hated them and desired their damnation. But by God's grace, after many years, he has learned to forgive them and even to pray for their salvation. It is still not easy, and he is still growing in this, but God is clearly at work in his life. It was powerful to see the emotion in his eyes as he shared all this. Today, as a pastor of a local church, he also seeks to help members of his congregation to forgive those who have persecuted them. Most recently, he is working with a mother whose Christian son was tortured to the point of kidney failure, encouraging her to find forgiveness and peace in Christ.

Pray for the Christians in Iran.