Friday, February 15, 2013

A Clean Severance - Part 1

In Old Testament Times suffering was seen as evil.  In the New Testament, suffering and evil are no longer identical.  Think of the shock the crowds must have felt when Jesus said that those who mourn, those who are poor and persecuted and have nothing are happy!  How could he say such things?  Only in light of another kingdom, another world, another way of seeing this world.  He came to bring life-- another kind of life altogether.  And it is in terms of that life that we must learn to look at our sufferings.  I have found it possible, when I see suffering from that perspective, wholeheartedly to accept it.  But it takes a steady fixing of my gaze on the cross.

If the cross is the place where the worst thing that could happen happened, it is also the place where the best thing that could happen happened.  Ultimate hatred and ultimate love met on those two crosspieces of wood.  Suffering and love were brought into harmony.

It was while we were still powerless to help ourselves that Jesus died for us.  It is a rare thing, as Paul points out, for anybody to die even for a good man, "but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God's own proof of his love towards us.  And so, since we have now been justified by Christ's sacrificial death, we shall all the more certainly be saved through him from final retribution" (Romans 5:89).

To be "saved" requires a severance from the former life as clean and sharp as though made by a knife.  There must be a wall of separation between the old life and the new, a radical break.  That means death -- death to the old life, in order for the new to begin.  "We know that the man we once were has been crucified with Christ, for the destruction of the sinful self, so that we may no longer be the slaves of sin, since a dead man is no longer answerable for his sin" (Romans 6:6-7).

This wall of separation, this barrier, is the cross.

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

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