Tuesday, April 15, 2014

There is no Sugar Coating Life

There just isn't.

Plain and simple.

There is no doubt in my mind that life is good...at times.

And there is no doubt in my mind that life is really rotten...at times.

What astounds me is how oftentimes, folks stay at either end of the pendulum without naming life for what it is.

Martin Luther once remarked, "A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the things what it actually is."

This past week has been rough for the community I serve (and for me as well).  A well liked church member suffered a massive stroke, and the prognosis isn't good.  He is on hospice and will meet his eternal glory soon.

Another church member and fellow musician in our church band expedited his meeting with Christ by committing suicide last week Wednesday.  A life-long struggle with depression finally ended, but the shock and grief hit a whole lot of people.

It was quite the double whammy for many, and there is no sugar coating it.  You can't put a good spin on things and say, "Oh, everything is just peachy-keen.  God is in control and is orchestrating all of this stuff to bring on bigger and better blessings!  Just have enough faith and everything will work out fine!"

You can take this train of thought and shove it where the sun doesn't shine.

As I have written before, I do not believe God orchestrates such events.  These events take place because of the brokenness of our world--they are a direct consequence of Sin--separation from God--not because of God.  It is during and after these events that God really and truly rolls up His sleeves and goes to work.  It is during and after these events that God works to bring good from evil; peace from turmoil; healing from suffering.

It is hard for me to fathom that many folks still cling to the idea that if one commits suicide, one is eternally destined for hell.  It is hard for me to fathom that some still cling to the idea that we are struck down with illness, disease, stroke, or cancer as some sort of punishment for the wrongs we have committed.  This works-righteousness theology sometimes runs very deep.

But God is a God of grace.  Christ revealed that unequivocally through the cross and resurrection.  St. Paul expounded on it through his letters.  For those who believe in Christ, we are not judged by what we do.  We are not judged by our actions for our righteousness does not depend upon our righteousness, but on Christ's righteousness.  We are not saved because of what we do, but because of what Christ has done.

As I remarked in conversation yesterday:

You know, if we were judged based upon what we do, we would all go to hell.  Jamie committed suicide.  He killed himself, but if I get angry with someone, according to Jesus, I am committing murder.  I am doomed if I am judged by my actions.  But I am not.  Jamie was not.  We are judged according to Christ's actions.  Period.

This doesn't sugar coat life.  It allows us to be frank about life.  It allows us to name all the pink elephants in the room.  It allows us to be honest about the circumstances of life and death.  It allows us to name the brokenness of life--call darkness for what it is--call pain for what it is--cry and wail and weep in the midst of that pain.

But it also allows us to live without despair.  For the theology of the cross leads straight to the resurrection.  Despair turns to hope.  Death turns to life.  Darkness turns to light.

In the midst of the messyness of life, I have come to realize I have a powerful, humbling privilege: to proclaim the gospel--to remind people that God is working to transform their brokenness into wholeness; to turn mourning into dancing.  I have the privilege of telling people that though Jesus died, He now lives, and because He lives we shall live also.  And neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come--nothing in all creation--can ever separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

There's no sugar coating life.

But in the end, there is transformation.  There is resurrection, and that, my readers, is sweet.

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