posted on September 28, 2011 14:33
The following is part two of Dean Wakefield's previous blog.
Ten years later, the memory of 9/11 still looms so large. Ten years later, we still point back to that event as the moment when the world changed irrevocably. Ten years later, the sufferings of that day still dominate our thoughts.
And part of me resents that.
Yes, it was a terrible tragedy. Yes, 3,000 people lost their lives in the twin towers that day. Yes, our nation and our world have been different ever since.
But was the death of those 3,000 people the only tragedy that happened that day? Was this terrorist attack the only act of brutality that occurred that month? Was there no other suffering that happened that year?
How many thousands died of starvation in Africa that day? How many thousands died in drunk-driving accidents that year? How many marriages died in ugly divorces? How many children were abused by their parents?
Not even for a moment do I want to minimize the suffering caused by the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But I do want to raise a question: Why does the suffering of that day ten years ago still grip us ten years later, while the suffering of thousands around the world ten minutes ago is something to which we are oblivious?
The difference, of course, is that it happened to us. Not us, directly – many of us did not know anyone that died during the 9/11 tragedy; most of us were not there. And yet, we claim that suffering as our own. It happened to us – to our nation – to our people. And so, that suffering is real for us in a way that the suffering of thousands and millions around the world is not. That suffering is real for us in a way that even the suffering of a neighbor just across the street is not.
I wonder how God sees it? When God sees a world full of tragedies, full of suffering, full of injustice, does He shrug his shoulders and say, “Those aren’t my people?” I don’t think so. The witness of the Bible is that God loves us so much that He comes to claim our suffering – to join us, to take on humanity, to suffer alongside us and overcome that suffering through the death of Jesus Christ.
I don’t really like where this is leading, but I have to ask the next question anyway. If God takes on our suffering – if God claims our suffering as His own – if that’s what Christ does for us, what are we as Christians called to do for others? What is the Christian response to suffering, to brokenness, to a world that is fallen and far from what God intended it to be?
Should we as Christians try to stand above and apart from the suffering of a sinful world? Should we see it as our job to point out the fault and disdain the brokenness and castigate those who are committing sin? Or should we as Christians follow the example of Christ by joining ourselves to a broken world and accepting its suffering as our own?
I know we are not called to replicate the work of Christ on the cross. His suffering and sacrifice was once and for all. But we are called to be the presence of Christ in the world. Can we hope to do that without following Christ’s example? Can we truly be the presence of Christ without taking up the cross? Can we truly be the presence of Christ without accepting the suffering of all the world around us as our own suffering?
Colossians 1:24 has always been a difficult verse: “Now I rejoice in suffering for your sake, and I am completing the lack of tribulations on behalf of Christ in my flesh for the sake of His body, which is the church.” Is Paul saying that somehow the church is deficient in its suffering? Maybe he is saying that the church has a long, long way to go before it has truly represented Christ to a broken and suffering world by owning that suffering and brokenness as its own.