A Meditation on Suffering

That God is on the side of the poor and that the scriptures are uncompromising in their demand for economic and social justice is much more clear biblically than most of the issues that have divided churches. The scriptures claim that to know God is to do justice and to plead the cause of the oppressed. Yet this central biblical imperative is one of the first to be purged from a church that has be come accommodated and conformed to the established order.

The biblical narratives speak clearly about the structural realities of oppression and the systematized relegating of “the other” to a subhuman status. Using “the other,” the despised race or class or sex, is a unique sort of sin and is an issue at the heart of the gospel. The vantage point for biblical people is to view systems, societies, cultures, and institutions from the point of view of their victims. This gives the Christian community a unique role in history--a perpetually revolutionary role in history.

In Jesus Christ, God takes the form of “the other” as a member of an oppressed race, an exploited class, and a colonized nation. God, in Jesus Christ, becomes poor and oppressed. The paradox and scandal of the incarnation is that God takes the form of a servant and makes himself one with “the others,” The church visioned in the New Testament also makes itself one with the poor and the oppressed and as sum us the mantle of servant hood after the manner of God in Jesus Christ.

Any serious spiritual quest on the part of biblical people will ultimately bring a confrontation with the question of suffering and sacrifice. The vital relationships between suffering and liberation, between sacrifice and change, between crucifixion and resurrection become evident as the church decides to live out of a theology that is truly incarnational.

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