Monday, April 29, 2013

Rejected by Church but Accepted by God

Loving our neighbor is more important than offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33), and love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). So love needs to be practiced in the Christian church. Sadly, rejection is also practiced in churches. Here are some instances.

A church I was aware of disqualified many of her members from public reading of the Scripture (from the pulpit) because of their alleged inadequacies in pronunciation, punctuation, voice modulation etc. Ironically, the ‘experts’ were imperfect in reading as well!

When members fellowship after the worship service, we find people standing isolated without anyone to talk to. This reality is due to the existence of likeminded groups. Time is limited but topics are unlimited, so likeminded groups are busy managing their topics on time. The isolated person stands alone and rejected.

Pastors ought to lead by example, but they too reject their own members – ignorantly or intentionally. If a pastor is busy engaging a member of his choice, he denies the request of another desiring to talk to him. I was denied handshakes, since the pastor was preoccupied with his own agenda.

I was once depressed at work, so I desired prayer from an after-service intercessor. Citing the hot and humid evening, the intercessor scampered to the comforts of the home instead of spending quality time interceding for my needs. The prayer ended hastily and added much disillusionment to my sorrow.

Some churches encourage competitions which demonstrate individuals’ Bible knowledge (e.g. recitations, quizzes etc.). The upside is the motivation that members receive to read the Bible; the downside is rejection. The winners are awarded with gifts, whereas losers feel the brunt of pain from failure.

Gossips, insults, cleverly veiled insinuations, public condemnations on account of sins committed, dump the person in contention into much pain. The pain is acute when the person has repented of his sin, yet suffers rejection by the church. Then there are those who are falsely accused as sinners. Some in the church no longer believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” but rather in “guilty until proven innocent.” They treat this member as a proven sinner and reject him wholeheartedly.

These are just some forms of rejections in a church. But here are some personal and biblical insights about rejection in the church.

In the case of Scripture reading, any member who can read adequately well and is confident of reading in public must be offered an opportunity to read. If a church disqualifies people from reading Scriptures on the basis of excellence, the same policy should determine all other aspects of worship - worship leader, intercessor, preacher etc. This would be an interesting complexity to resolve!

Corporate worship is community worship. As far as possible, distinction between ‘good’ and ‘not-so-good’ should be avoided. Perfection in our life is impossible, but for the perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross. ‘Graciousness’ is a viable alternate to excellence. Sloppy participation in worship services is to be discouraged along with elimination based on excellence.

Rejection (isolation) of members after the worship service defeats the purpose of worship. We decide to love our neighbor during the worship service. But immediately after, we reject our unknown neighbor by loving those who love us and whom we love. It is our intentional responsibility to accept and integrate everyone into the body of Christ.

With respect to competitions, exposure of one’s lack of biblical knowledge is not enriching especially when these activities do not reveal a doctrinal understanding of the Bible. Verse recitations are beneficial, but the church should find a way to encourage and motivate the losers. The church should bear in mind that the majority are losers (if 10 participate, there are 3 winners and 7 losers).

Rejection on account of sins committed is the most deplorable of all rejections. This verse summarizes Christ’s response to a sinner, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her” (John 8:7, J.B Phillips).

The church is a congregation of sinners; hence grace should be practiced profusely. The temptation is to be super-righteous and condemn the sinner while conveniently ignoring the fact that all are sinners. When those with Christ behaved super-righteously, HE instilled truth by affirming every one as sinners with a need to repent (cf. Luke 13: 1-5). Even if a person is convicted of sin, the church should exhibit grace, love, mercy, and patience in engaging this child of God.

If a convicted sinner is to be treated with love and grace, should not the one merely suspected of a sin treated with the same love and grace?

Church may reject, but God accepts all men if they believe in HIM. Christ came to “preach the Gospel to the poor... to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Luke 4:18, J.B Phillips).

Christ left the ninety-nine sheep to rescue the one sheep that had wandered off (cf. Matthew 18: 12-14).1 If the Lord considered that one sheep too precious to lose, the church should also be gracious to all. Rejection opposes the gospel of the Lord Jesus.

Many deem it wise to sacrifice the one to save ninety-nine. In a controversial situation, an innocent is often the scapegoat. The world may justify this atrocity, but certainly not the church of Christ. The church should love and defend the lost and brokenhearted.

When asked who the greatest is in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus affirmed that the least is the greatest (cf. Matthew 18: 1-4). The one who is humble is the greatest in the Kingdom of God. Unless the church has a humble heart she cannot identify the rejected, even if he stands in front of her sight.

Think with me please. Christ hung out with the prostitute, leper, centurion, and the woman who had five husbands. Would these children of God be lovingly embraced by the local church today? Who is more recognized in the church – Mr. Insignificant Bloke or Mr. Prominent Righteous? The answer to the latter question will answer the former.

We desire healing through ‘signs and wonders,’ but ignore opportunities to heal the rejected, especially when he stares right into our face. May we not be those who seek signs from heaven by ignoring signs of our time (cf. Luke 11: 29-32). The Lord - greater than Jonah and Solomon – lived on earth, died for our sins, rose again from the dead to save and intercede for all, which includes the lost and brokenhearted. May we offer Christ’s love, comfort, and compassion to all those who need it desperately.

If the church rejects you, please know that God loves you. Amen.

Additional Note:
1 The lost sheep in this parable refers to a believer; the lost sheep in the gospel of Luke refers to an unbeliever (Luke 15:4-7). 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Trust and Hope in Suffering

The explosions in Texas and Boston, and the earthquake at the Pak-Iran border this week, have changed the lives of the victims and their families. The measure of pain they undergo is unimaginable. Loss of human and material significance inflicts physical pain and emotional turmoil that robs the victim of peace, joy, love and contentment from his life.

Suffering inflicts an irreversible change, but not irreparable. We will not regain the loved one whom we lost, or the lost vigor of an injured organ of our body, or even our shattered material belongings. These are irreversible changes. But there is a way to find peace, joy, love and contentment through suffering. That way is through the life giving presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘Peace’ is a foundational necessity in pain. It is natural to lose peace when we encounter pain. Peacelessness yields worry/anxiety, bitterness, anger and the likes. It entails confusion and disorder, which darkens the mind into taking erroneous decisions. When there is peace, ‘worry’ or ‘confusion’ is crushed. Peace paves way to joy, love, and contentment.

However, it is typical for a Christian to go through moments of worry/anxiety, bitterness, anger and the likes, during his suffering. But he should never let these emotions gain control of his life; thus destroy his inner peace and intimacy with God.

Foundational to ‘peace’ is ‘trust.’ If a Christian is to be at peace with God, then he ought to trust in HIM. The same concept is true for human relationships. Trust or belief or faith is the core essence of any relationship, so it is with Christianity. Our total trust should always be on God; this effectively eliminates a conflicting trust in our own ability (Proverbs 3:5). In the relationship between God and man, ‘trust’ is always unidirectional – God-ward (man to God) – and unconditional. A Christian should trust God in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, for better or for worse. He should trust in God’s love and goodness.

Trust is demonstrated appropriately when a Christian surrenders his life into the hands of a good and a loving God. Such a trust is depicted in the instance where the Apostle Paul says he no longer lives but Christ lives in him, and the life he lives is by faith in God (Galatians 2:20).

In summary thus far:
1. A Christian totally trusts in God or he ought to totally trust in         God.

2. His trust in God is demonstrated by his surrender to God.

3. When his life is surrendered to God, he is able to enjoy God’s blessings (one of which is peace.) The extent of his surrender to God determines the extent to which he enjoys his spiritual blessings from God. In other words, the extent of a Christian’s growth in the Lord will determine the extent of his stability in the Lord through prosperity or adversity.

Our existential dilemma is that our ‘trust’ in God stumbles upon obstacles! There are moments in suffering when we are pushed beyond our limits. Then we question God. There is nothing unusual or incorrect about questioning God. But the unusual and incorrect response is when our trust in God decreases during suffering.

The book of Lamentations offers us a useful insight. Even though Lamentations is poetic and the context is divine retribution over the sinful Judah and Jerusalem, the cries of the lamenter’s heart are vividly portrayed. He lamented about his unparalleled suffering (1:12), his defeat in the hands of evil (1:14), the desertion of human comfort (1:16), so much so he compares God to his enemy (2:5)! His wailing climaxed in chapter 3. In verses 17 to 19, he lamented about deprivation of peace, amnesia of prosperity and hope in the Lord, and his soul’s depression. He seemed lost, lonely and hopeless. However, he did not lose his trust in God.  

In chapters 1 and 2 he recalled God’s goodness during his laments – HIS righteousness (1:18), and HIS justice and promise (2:17). Through his laments he remembered his righteous God.

The lamenter turned a new page in verse 21 of the third chapter – his laments transform into hope in God. He rediscovered ‘hope’ when he recalled God’s love (v22), compassion (v22), faithfulness (v23), and goodness (v25). Yes, this is the same Lord whom he compared to an enemy! But now, he realized his hope in the Lord. How wonderful are his words (Lamentations 3: 21-26, NIV):
Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

If ‘trust’ seems to take a beating, ‘hope’ should come out firing. What better than to hope in the Lord when we recall HIS blessings in our past? Let us not forget the blessings we enjoyed from the Lord. HE will never leave or forsake us. HE is there with us, HE will guide us through our sufferings, HE will offer us HIS peace, and HE will heal and deliver us. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV).

Are we in immeasurable pain? Let us relate ourselves to the author of Lamentations. He was in immeasurable pain. But he recalled God’s blessings, which leads him to place his trust and hope in God. Similarly let us recall God’s blessings of our past, and trust and hope in God and his unfailing love for our present and future.
For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:31-32, NIV).


Monday, April 15, 2013

Overcoming Suffering

This blog is an attempt to help a sufferer to conquer suffering by the grace of our Lord.

        “Each major religion has its own slant on the universal problem of suffering.  Islam says we should submit and accept all that happens as God’s will…Hinduism goes further, teaching that the suffering we bear is deserved, the result of sins we committed in a previous life.  Buddhism frankly admits, “Life is suffering,” and teaches how to embrace it,” says Phillip Yancey.1

God is merciless when he imposes suffering and orphans us without answers. God is powerless when he blames us for suffering and fails to alleviate it, so reincarnation shatters us. God is a sadist when he asks us to embrace suffering, but he will not lift his little finger to help us (God is not required to, for Buddhism is atheistic).

        But the Bible in contradistinction (with the other religions) speaks differently about suffering. Here are some insights from the Bible to overcome suffering.

        First, we should accept suffering. In his first phase of suffering, Job lost his family and possessions. He was in great pain. Instead of rebelling (blaming God), he grieved and then worshipped God (Job 1:20-22). Job, in his second phase of suffering, was covered with painful sores. His wife instigated him to curse God (rebel against HIM).2 He chided his wife and ignored her, for he accepted suffering (Job 2:10). Similarly, we are to accept suffering, not from a defeatist perspective, but as an experience permitted by God on HIS child.

    Job worshiped God in suffering. This implies:

             God is our Sovereign/Almighty heavenly Father, HE is in absolute control. HE is our Creator.

             We are HIS creation/children. We believe HIS goodness among all HIS other attributes.

         God provides everything to HIS children. We bring nothing into this world and take nothing from it. A child gratefully accepts what he freely receives.

             If God provides, HE can take it away. HIS goodness does not change (cf. Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

Second, we should acknowledge our weakness (cf. Job 14:1; Psalm 39:3-5; James 4:14) to handle our suffering. Weakness can be acknowledged only in humility when we empty ourselves off our pride.

Ravi Zacharias narrates a humorous incident between the boxing legend Muhammad Ali and an air hostess. In the midst of air turbulence, the hostess reminded the great Ali to wear his seat belt. But he snapped, “Superman needs no seatbelt.” The hostess retaliated, “Superman needs no airplane!” Prides makes us think we are supermen, and supermen should feel no pain. But when we suffer in pain, we are powerless. We need God.

Suffering, a product of sin and evil, is caused by Satan. God is not the cause of suffering. When we battle suffering, we should be mindful of Satan as the adversary. We cannot defeat Satan without Christ. But Christ will enter our lives only when we open our hearts to HIM. If we consider ourselves self-sufficient and strong, we will tend to remain independent of God. So it is imperative to acknowledge our weakness.

We are inclined to grieve because of our weakness. We express our weakness through fear, grief, frustration, anger, and may even think of giving up (1 Kings 19:3-4; Jonah 4:1-3). This is a common response. Our deeds during weakness are more significant than the weakness. Elijah and Noah prayed to God when they were weak.

Third, we approach God in prayer, just as Noah and Elijah did. We pray not as if we are wronged and inappropriately treated (that is rebellion). But we pray as a child to the father. We can pour our hearts out to God. The Psalmist, in sheer pain, asks God to break the teeth of the wicked; he surely knew God as his shield and deliverance (Psalm 3). God will deliver those who believe in HIM (Job 36:15; Psalm 34:15-20). The Lord Jesus, who defeated sin and death on the cross, is the only one who can graciously deliver and offer us the power to live victoriously. It is imperative to remain in the life giving presence of our Lord. To endure suffering, we need the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which we bear when we remain in Christ (John 15: 4-5, Galatians 5: 22-23).

A man could seek help from his friend or expect his friend to be sympathetic to him during his suffering. This works, but not always. Friends may disappoint during moments of suffering. Friends are Christ’s tangible image, but when they remain deaf to pain, and even worse, if they pour more scorn through demeaning words and their absence, the one suffering is greatly mutilated. The persecution from fellow Christians is more unbearable than the pain of suffering. Job’s friends did not console or comfort him; instead they increased his pain through their harsh words. Consequently, God was angry with Job’s friends, and Job prayed for them (Job 42: 7-10). Friends may or may not help during our suffering, but God NEVER disappoints us. We are to remain in HIM.

A disciple of the Lord Jesus never succumbs to suffering. By the grace of God, he lives victoriously through it. He does what God wills him to do. He remains obedient to the Lord’s plans. Suffering is a part of the Christian life; it is a fallacy to think otherwise. Some proclaim that suffering is not a part of God’s plan. This is an utter distortion of God’s Word. If suffering is not a part of God’s plan, then Christ need not have suffered and died to bring salvation to mankind.

        ‘Accept,’ ‘Acknowledge,’ and ‘Approach’ is my suggestion to overcome suffering. We should accept our suffering, acknowledge our weakness, and approach God in prayer to remain in HIM always. Are we weary and burdened by suffering? Christ is our only hope (Matthew 11:28-30).

My next blog is “Life in Suffering,” where I will suggest how we live during our suffering.


[2] In Job 1:5,11 and 2:9, the literal Hebrew is “bless God” instead of “curse God.” The author of the book of Job employs an ‘antithetic euphemism.’ His reverence and fear of God was such that he was unwilling to use the word ‘curse’ next to the name of God.

Monday, April 8, 2013

If God is NOT in Suffering

Let us think on the entailment of Godlessness in human suffering. What are my legitimate options if I am unable to believe in God during times of suffering? I use the word ‘unable’ to emphasize the overwhelming pain of the suffering heart. We should positively sympathize with those struggling to decrypt God’s presence in times of (arduous) suffering. Those who succumb to the incredible pain caused by their suffering, deny God’s existence.

            If man replaces God, then suffering is caused by mankind. Poverty, I postulate, is an imbalance in the distribution of financial resources, due to greed. The haves turn a blind eye to the have-nots. The poor shrink and the rich bloat. This is a tenable proposition. Again, if starvation is an outcome of the barrenness of land due to lack of rain, then one can posit concretization (building of concrete jungles) through deforestation as a plausible cause. This too is tenable.

            Man ought to be the cause behind a baby with birth defects due to parental negligence or an untimely death because of a drunken driver. These evils could be attributed to him exercising his freewill. But what is he free from? If someone is “free,” then we posit a restraining power. A young man may want freedom from his parent or a slave may want freedom from his oppressor. The parent and the oppressor are the restraining powers.

What do these powers restrain a man from? Parents restrain a child from being bad (which is good). An oppressor restrains the slave from escaping (which is bad). Hence, the restraints could be either good or bad. Man can choose to be free from either good or bad. Thus, a “free” man can liberate himself from good or bad.

            The moment we bring concepts such as ‘bad’ and ‘good’ (morality) into our domain, we should explain its cause. Who framed these moral laws? Since our postulation is Godlessness, society (man) frames its own moral laws. But one society executes convicts for armed robbery, whereas another imposes a lesser punishment. We need to decide which of these societies is right or wrong.

So we arrive at the realm of arbitration. A society sets up objective units to arbitrate opposing contentions. These objective units determine the innocent, the criminal, the winners, and the losers. Even in villages (where literacy is rare), a village council comprising of mature and credible people is established as an objective arbitrative unit. When man seeks justice/truth, he approaches the objective authority, whose sole purpose is to establish truth through impartial justice.

            This objective arbitrative unit ought to be a transcending authority. Primarily, it should transcend the contending parties, without sympathizing with either. But man is a vulnerable being. So the transcending authority need not be absolutely transcending, for it could fail to transcend corruption.

            When a man depends on his fellow being for justice, especially with the prevailing corruption, one can reasonably posit that justice need not be rendered to every individual. Justice often marries power, position, and prominence, leaving the poor and powerless divorced from justice.

Here the aspect of “Hope” needs to be considered if mankind is robbed of justice from fellow man. When one is at the receiving end of injustice, should he live with hope to receive justice one day, or should he be hopeless? When a man fails to receive justice, what is his assurance to receive justice later? When corruption is in full force, justice from a fellow man is not an optimistic anticipation, especially if he is poor and powerless. When man replaces God, hopelessness prevails.

            With man at the helm of affairs, justice and hope are uncertain. With God at the helm of affairs, there is justice and hope. This hope is an eternal hope where evil will be punished and righteous will be saved to coexist with God unto eternity (Revelation 20ff). If the Lord so ordains that I do not receive justice in this time and age (Cf. Hebrews11:35b-40), I am certain of receiving justice when HE comes in all HIS glory to judge mankind.
            Until now we hypothetically removed God from the helm and replaced HIM with man. Then we examined the situation to ascertain if man’s replacement of God answers questions related to suffering. The situation of suffering with man at the helm is worse. If I depend on man, then I am hopeless and robbed of justice. Hopelessness with man also posits that man is not “free” but is under the control of evil.

            There is a sense of duplicity in those who reject God (a transcending, objective, Almighty reality) but accept the presence of objective arbitrative units of men. On one hand, they reject God because of HIS supposed partiality (HE provides good to some and not to all), and impotency (HE fails to eliminate evil), but on the other hand they accept a man who is worse than God – partial, impotent, and susceptible to corruption. Those who are disappointed in God should also be disappointed with man (even with themselves!). Significantly, there is hope with God but only hopelessness with man.

            If we replace God with anything inanimate (chance), then the situation gets even worse. We are left with more holes and questions – the situation becomes more unstable and untenable. If God is at the helm, then God decides the birth of every man. If man rejects God, then his birth is a chance occurrence. When ‘chance’ rapes a man, he is abandoned into brutal obscurity, humiliation and indignity that he remains idiotically ignorant of the cause for his malady. This is a situation of greater hopelessness and indignity. This is a horrendous evil.

            It has already been emphasized that man can decide to liberate himself from good or bad. We have the intrinsic freedom to liberate ourselves from God or the devil. When we liberate from God, we fall prey (even innocently and ignorantly) to the schemes of the devil. A deluded man falls prey to the devil’s schemes. God gives man many chances to seek HIM, love HIM, and obey HIM willingly and lovingly. It is my prayer that we do not fall into the hands of the evil one, but willingly and lovingly fall into the loving and nail pierced hands of the Almighty God.

            Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Without Christ, we are hopeless. I therefore submit that suffering is more understandable and explainable with God. Amen.

If man replaces God:

            Suffering caused by ‘man’ or ‘chance’
If suffering caused by man, then Man is “free.”

                                    A ‘free’ man can liberate himself from ‘good’ or ‘evil’ (morality).

Man frames moral laws to establish justice/good (since God is replaced by man).

Man arbitrates/judges to ensure fairness/good (man sets up objective authority akin God)

Arbitration should absolutely transcend, but does not, for man is vulnerable (corrupt). So, man is unable to liberate himself from evil.
Justice unrendered to man, since man unable to liberate himself from evil.

When justice is unrendered, man is HOPELESS, evil prevails, ‘good’ is nonexistent/partial.

Because justice and hope are consistently non-existent/partial, man is not ‘free,’ but is under the control of evil.

Therefore, when man rejects God, he is under the control   of evil.

                        If suffering is a ‘chance’ occurrence
Man is so hopeless that he cannot seek anyone or anything for answers. Man is robbed of dignity completely.

This is a horrendous evil, so evil prevails.
If man replaces God, evil prevails, man is under the control of evil.

Man sets up an objective authority to establish justice/good, but rejects a good and a just God who is an objective authority. (Man does not want to yield control to God.)

Because of corruption/evil, man fails to provide justice consistently. (But he rejected God for the same reason - not providing justice consistently.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Justice in Suffering

As a mother walks on the sidewalk with her baby in a stroller, a drunken taxi driver ploughs into them; the baby dies instantly. A pregnant mother tried her best to curb her chain-smoking, but failed; her child is born with birth defects.

Some are born into a wealthy home with a silver spoon; they enjoy their abundance. Some in an average middle class home struggle to receive what they need - even a modern day essential such as an unlimited talk time on cell phone. Others are born in slums and their struggles are for a mere cup of tea and a slice of bread. 

How is a child born in a slum less deserving of the mortal pleasures? How would a child born to a chain-smoking mother deserve a life time of disability?

We have absolutely no control over the place, health, and wealth of our birth. The sovereign God authors the script; we are the reluctant actors. Are we mere dominoes that fall when knocked down? God gives as HE wills. So am I to merely accept and try to live my best? “Life sucks; I am a mere puppet in the hands of a cruel God,” so we scream. The scream seems legit! 

God decides that some be born in wealth and some in dirt. After such a birth, what is God’s plan to make a life good? Bible says that in all things God works for the good of those who love HIM (Romans 8:28, NIV). Do these sound good - defective births, untimely death, and birth in a slum? Or should we rethink our definition of good? If we are born into a healthy and wealthy home, then God is good. If not, do we rethink God?

How does God decide our place of birth? God is a God of Justice (Deuteronomy 32:4; Revelation 16:5 et al.). We believe a ‘Just’ God should not relegate humans into slums or sickness. If a baby is born in a slum or with sickness, we sense a denial of justice. So, we view God as a source of happiness. In other words, if I am happy, then God is just. If I am unhappy, is God unjust?

Happiness is a relative term. The poor may be satisfied to receive a slice of bread and a cup of tea. A meager quantity such as this would not satisfy a person belonging to the middle-class or rich. (Please allow me to switch tracks.) If God in HIS justice provides the middle-class and rich with just a hut to live, they would not be happy (unless we find a middle-class or rich human living in a hut). Hence, God’s justice need not necessarily result in human happiness, even if HE intends it to be.

Without sickness there is no healing, without adversity no miracle. God’s glory is powerfully evident during adversities (miracles of Christ). A healthy life causes happiness, and sickness triggers sadness. Even if healing is not taken into consideration, the sick are happy to receive good medical care and financial support. Joyful testimonies of people having received such benefits during their sickness are an affirmation. In this instance, the justice of God brings happiness to a suffering soul. In some cases, people grieve in their sickness despite receiving good medical care and financial support. Situation remains status quo – happiness need not result from God’s justice, although God does provide a way out of suffering.

Ever wondered why the disciples of the Lord - Andrew, Philip, Nathanael (Bartholomew), Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus-Judas, and the late entrant Matthias were not given prominence in the Bible, yet each one died a martyr’s death? If they had received their prominence, then their martyrdom could seem justifiable. The Bible does not teach that prominence, popularity, and power are the only destinations for the Lord’s disciples. Instead, the Lord’s disciples are to be obedient to the Lord, and accept what God in HIS justice offers to them. Happiness is never found in prosperity, but in obedience to God, in doing HIS perfect and pleasing will.

In a nutshell, God’s justice cannot be understood from man’s perspective. Our perspective mutates circumstantially. But, God gives to man everything what each thing requires to be the kind of thing it is (distributive justice).1

In God there is no injustice (2 Chronicles 19:7), so God cannot offer cruel things. What God gives is good, but our understanding of good needs to be redefined. (Please allow me to use ‘justice’ and ‘good’ interchangeably.) It is unjust (‘not good’) that someone be killed, but it is justice (‘good’) when a soldier dies for the sake of his country. ‘Good’ needs to be comprehended from a greater perspective (in this case - community). Thus, justice should also be seen from a greater perspective (community), not just from a personal perspective. 

We are a long way off the Garden of Eden - intended as a place of equality and rest. Sin and evil blessed us with societal strata. For instance, doctor’s and sanitation workers are essential to our existence, but their characteristics are poles apart. Without doctors we may die early, and without sanitation workers we would live in miserable stench. (Only those who bear stench can remove garbage.) The complexity of our world demands people in all societal strata. Doctors and sanitation workers are necessities. Hence, God gives to man everything that he needs to be as God wants him to be. (We will not address the existential dilemma of doctors being content, and sanitation workers demanding status i.e. to be doctors).

Our society is constructed such that some ought to be placed higher or lower. So, God in HIS justice decides the birth. But HE has also given much to the middle-class and wealthy with an intent that they would take care of the poor and lowly. It is the failure of these sections of the society that we still have the underprivileged. How many times have we seen a sanitation worker and given him food or a drink? After all, he keeps our precincts clean! If we have much, and fail to take care of our neighbor in need, then we are to be blamed, not God (Cf. Luke 12:48; Matthew 25:34-46). God has not failed in being just; we are failing in our responsibility. God’s people are to serve to alleviate pain and poverty, for we are the body of Christ. We cannot ignore our neighbor in pain.

Suffering is an outcome of sin and evil. But the suffering soul ought to remove his focus from self and look to God for HIS omnipresent grace and strength. God ensures justice by always satisfying a suffering soul (Psalm41:3; Isaiah 53:5; Malachi 4:2; Luke 9:11). Hence, we must trust God. HE alone provides us with sustenance. The unhealthy or poor should trust HIM even more.

We celebrated “Good Friday” – the Lord’s suffering. Even though we shudder at the extent of suffering the Lord bore, we are glad for that suffering brought salvation to mankind. Thus God established justice from suffering. One’s suffering brought mankind much good. Similarly, God will bring good even from one man’s suffering.

Hence, I believe that there is justice in suffering. Amen. 


1Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Question 21, Article 1.