Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Pope and Suffering

An odd post from Ignatius Insight:
"the first question that comes from a seven-year-old Japanese child who says:'My name is Elena. I am Japanese and I am seven years old. I am very frightened because the house where I felt safe really shook a lot and many children my age have died. I cannot go to play at the park. I want to know: why do I have to be so afraid? Why do children have to be so sad? I'm asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me.'"
Ok. Japan is the least Christian first world nation I can think of (unless one counts Russia as first world). This little girl has very likely never heard the Gospel, or about sin, or anything Christian. We need a strong proclamation of who God is, and what Jesus did.
"I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side. This seems very important to me, even if we do not have answers, even if we are still sad; God is by your side and you can be certain that this will help you. One day we will even understand why it was so. At this moment it seems important to me that you know 'God loves me' even if it seems like He doesn't know me. No, He loves me, He is by my side, and you can be sure that in the world, in the universe, there are many who are with you, thinking of you, doing what they can for you, to help you. And be aware that, one day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn't in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love. It is not chance."
Let me start by saying that I am not the right person to witness to a seven year old girl who just had thousands of people killed nearby. You need a nice, motherly lady - not a troll who lives in a basement! :)

That said, there is a nice way to say what I say - not a dumbed down, watered down, or vacuous thing to say - to deliver the truth in love, with full truth and full love.

With that disclaimer, what this girl needs to hear about is sin and God's righteousness, and His demand for justice. How the world is in rebellion against God, and how we must surrender to Him.

That Jesus' death wasn't just a senseless act against an innocent.

That Jesus paid the price for sin.

And, if we turn from sin and trust Him, we can have our sins forgiven.


TheDen said...

Hey Ned,

I hope you are having a joyous and blessed Easter. I have not had a chance to comment lately but still read on occasion.

I think the confusion from the Pope’s message highlights the difference between Catholic and Protestant understandings.

In Catholic understanding, everything hinges on God’s love for us. God loves us and we respond to His love. His love was so great that He sent His beloved Son to be sacrificed in love for us so that we may have eternal life.

We respond to God’s love by obedience. We show our love for God by following His commandments and remaining in Him. (which would mean turning from sin)

When evangelizing to the world, we start by talking about God’s abundant love for each and every person and how we should respond (by turning away from sin).

What you are saying (“Jesus death wasn’t a senseless act…etc.” ) is absolutely correct but it skips the first part of the equation. The Pope is giving her the first part of the equation and letting her figure out the rest of the equation.

Does that make sense?

nedbrek said...

Hey! Been a while!

That is interesting, it is also what you see in a lot of Evangelical churches (this focus on "God's love").

The problem is that it doesn't make sense for a lot of people. That is, they think "Of course God loves me, I'm a really good person!" Without an understanding of sin (through an examination with God's law), we don't see our need for a savior.

TheDen said...

"That is, they think "Of course God loves me, I'm a really good person!" Without an understanding of sin (through an examination with God's law), we don't see our need for a savior."

I definitely can see that potential out there without the second part of the equation.

The problem with your explanation (ie only giving the second part of the equation) is that that doesn't make sense without God's love.

In essence, you really need to tell them the whole part--ie God loves you so much that He died for you. He wants you to be with Him for eternity through love of Him and obedience to Him which would be turning away from sin.

I think with the little girl, the Pope was likely just giving her the first part and hoping she would yearn to find the rest of the message. He just has to trust in God's grace to do that.