Pain and Suffering II

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

(2 Corinthians 4: 8- 9 ESV)

child suffering 1

“My focus is to forget the pain of life. Forget the pain, mock the pain, reduce it. And laugh.”

–Jim Carrey

In the first century… for Romans, religion was a force that bound families together, bound subjects to their ruler and bound men to the gods.  They had a set of public gods, like Jupiter and Mars….Rome added to this collection of gods… both Greek gods as well as a number of foreign cults…Roman worship consisted of gaining the blessings of the gods thereby gaining prosperity for themselves and for their families…their communities…..these Roman gods did not demand moral behavior….but an acute observance of religious rituals……

In first century Judaism, there was found many sects and schools in Jewish society.  The Essene’s who separated themselves from the community and thought they possessed the only truth….the Sadducee’s who appear to us to be a social-political party…and of course the infamous Pharisees… seemingly a rigid school of strict adherence to ancestral laws….who enjoyed the undying press of the New Testament and rigorously seen as opponents of Jesus…… there were also the Zealots…which appeared as a political movement interpreted by their own religious understanding…..but the most important group…..the plain Jews….the plain and simple folk who lived their Jewish lives by following the ways in which they were raised…..we see them also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament…..….the adulteress…..Matthew, the tax collector… Peter…who denied knowing Jesus three times….Thomas,  the doubter…..the blind…the sick…the hungry…the lepers….the aged…the dying……

…just to name a few….

Poverty child

“…Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I don’t know what will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. We’re more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” 
— John Lennon

When Christianity began to grow and flourish in the first century…its writers began to bring new ideas into the world of human thought and pagan beliefs. No one…not even unbelievers of today… can deny the tremendous impact! The undeniable importance of this radical movement… and of the suffering and the loyalty endured by those early Christians… Unlike their pagan counterparts…the early Christians did not abandon the sick and dying….they did not flee from cities or towns… they faced their own suffering and pain with an eerily sense of complete calmness….

And that new Christian approach to pain and suffering….

A greater room for sorrow and a

Greater basis for hope! 

And those thick and ordinary disciples?…..what were their fate?

Peter….martyred in Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero…Peter requested to be crucified upside down so that his death would not be the equal of Jesus…

Andrew…scourged, and then tied rather than nailed to a cross, so that he would suffer for a longer time before dying.  He lived for two days, preaching to passersby.

John….the only disciple to not die a violent death…passed away peacefully in Patmos in his old age.

Bartholomew…one account has him beaten and then crucified…the other account… he was skinned alive and then beheaded.

Thomas…martyred by running him through a spear.

Matthew…martyred in Ethiopia where he was supposedly stabbed in the back by a swordsman sent by King Hertacus, after he criticized the Kings morals.

James… at the age of 94, he was beaten and stoned by persecutors, and then they killed him by hitting him in the head with a club. 

Thaddaeus…he was crucified at Edessa in 72 A. D.

Simon…he was crucified in 74 A. D. in England.

Judas Iscariot…According to Matthew 27: 3-6 the apostle quickly felt remorse over his betrayal of Jesus and went to the Temple to recant… the high priests ignored his plea…he threw back his 30 pieces of silver that he had been paid and went off and hanged himself.

And…Paul…The Bible does not say when or how Paul died. There is an early tradition by Ignatius probably around 110 AD, that Paul was martyred.    Dionysius of Corinth in a letter to the Romans (166–174 AD), stated that Paul and Peter were martyred in Italy.  Eusebius also cites the Dionysius passage.

The Acts of Paul, an Apocryphal work written around 160, describes the martyrdom of Paul. According to the Acts of Paul, Nero, condemned Paul to death by decapitation.  

 “To you, I’m an atheist.

To God, I’m the loyal opposition.”

— Woody Allen

And still…we ask…. “Why should we suffer?” 

“Why would a loving God allow such suffering?”

To be continued….

 

 

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Pain and Suffering I

world suffering pic 1

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

–Jesus Christ

 (John 16: 33 ESV)

“Even if you were aware of children and felt compassion, when you have your own, it multiplies.  It breaks your heart to know that there are so many children in the world suffering so much.”

–Penelope Cruz

I have heard many people say they do not understand…they simply cannot even comprehend… why a loving God would allow so much suffering and pain in this world…so because of this seemingly perplexing inconsistency, many simply choose not to believe in God.   They conclude there can be no God existing in a world which experiences so much gut-wrenching pain and catastrophic suffering. Suffering is unavoidable.  Suffering does not discriminate…pain and suffering will eventually come to one and all.   Suffering seems to destroy everything in its path… it actually renders the sufferer unable to simply carry on with the very essential basics of life….it destroys….shatters…. overwhelms….it quickly takes life as we know it completely away……it can rob us of life itself….

world suffering pic 2

“Why Do people hate God?  One, they hate the moral standard.  Two, they hate the way He’s transforming the world even in the midst of suffering and tragedy.”

–Kirk Cameron

Different cultures and religions have attempted to define suffering.  In fact, one way a culture serves its members is to attempt to define ways in which to face horrific pain and suffering.  Some cultures and religions teach pain and suffering stem from the failure of people to live rightly.  The doctrine of karma is an example of this.  Buddhism teaches that suffering comes not from past deeds but from unfulfilled desires and those actual desires are the result of the illusion that we are individual selves.  Some societies address suffering and pain with a high view of fate and destiny.  Circumstances in life are predicted by supernatural forces…as in Islam…the will of Allah.   Other cultures teach suffering is a battle between darkness and light.  Our own contemporary secular Western culture is greatly lacking when it comes to explaining why pain and suffering occurs.  Many Western people of today find the ultimate goal of life is happiness…and suffering prevents happiness from occurring…During the Enlightenment Period, there was a shift from the belief that people were created to serve God to the belief that God made the world for our benefit.  Our ancestors once believed suffering was a part of life…but today we find a world where the belief is that God is obligated to arrange things the way we would like them to be…..When suffering and pain is seen as senseless…victims and cultures of its destruction develop deep anger…and deep hatred…and this growing anger and hatred is known as ressentiment…..

“As I lay so sick on my bed, from Christmas till March, I was always praying for poor ole master.  Pears like i didn’t do nothing but pray for poor ole master.  Oh, Lord, convert ole master, Oh, dear Lord, change dat man’s  heart, and make him a Christian.”

–Harriet Tubman

human suffering pic 3

“I find the greatest songs in the world come out of pain, and I don’t like it!  Here’s what it does: its strips away all of your facade.  It makes you so honest.  It’s cleansing.”

–Lionel Richie 

Thus…pain and suffering has now become the single and strongest objection to the existence of God…..Why would a loving God allow pain and suffering in this world?

 Christianity differs from all other worldviews…..

Why?

  Because we have a God who Himself suffered and didn’t deserve the pain and suffering inflicted upon Him…..and the most difficult aspect of this to understand….to even begin to comprehend…..

God actually allowed this pain and suffering to happen…..

And what if ( just what if ) our acute awareness of pain and suffering is actually a clue that God does exist?

“Jesus wept.”

(John 11: 35 ESV)

To be continued…