Suffering and Eternity

persecution-1

If you’ve paid any attention to the news lately, you’ve seen some terrible things. Muslims were slaughtered in Christchurch, Australia. Villages of predominately Christians in Nigeria have been targeted and persecuted in the ongoing regional conflicts. Even a glance at world news relates stories of suffering, death and sorrow.

Not many days pass in my ministry where I’m not ministering to a family that is facing death somehow. Death, suffering and, by extension, persecution, are a part of the human experience. These realities are tragic. God’s original design did not include death, suffering and persecution. But because we sinned and chose to reject God’s authority in the Garden of Eden, catastrophe occurred. Suffering, pain, persecution and death entered the world because of sin.

If you pay attention to the cacophony of voices around those who suffer you will often find a great distinction. It is not a left/right distinction. It is not a good/bad distinction. It is not an economic distinction. It is not a distinction of privilege. The distinction I speak of is the reaction of genuine followers of Jesus to suffering, tragedy and persecution with the rest of culture and society. Suffering is not to be sought after. Persecution and hate are to be called out. Murder and terrorism must always be prosecuted to the pursuit of justice.

But as followers of Jesus, our hope does not rest in the justice and fairness offered by governments and society. Our hope rests in the eternal. In my  quiet time, I’ve been reading through the book of John.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10

Jesus came to bring life, not death. He came to forgive, not condemn. He came to bring hope not despair.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. -John 17:3

For the one who knows Jesus, there is hope that is beyond this life. We must pursue justice, righteousness and goodness in this life. But we must not despair when our efforts or the efforts of governments and organizations fail for our hope is eternal.

I talked with someone just this week who is saddened by the death of a family member. But they are not in despair because their family member is experiencing eternal life. No longer are they bound by pain, suffering and torment. They have eternal life.

Follower of Jesus, it is our privilege to live out the hope of eternal life with distinction. It is through our confidence in the eternal life of Jesus Christ that we might bring hope to those in despair.

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