God suffers with us

Easter won’t allow us to imagine God as aloof, beyond our pain.

The cross shows us a God who suffers out of the fullness of his being because he is love. He does not suffer against his will, but willingly undertakes to suffer with and for those he loves. His suffering does not deflect him from his purpose, but accomplishes his purpose. His transcendence does not keep him aloof from the world, but as transcendent love appears in the depth of his self-sacrificing involvement in the world. Finally, if Christians know anything about God from the cross, it is that ‘the weakness of God is stronger than men’ (1 Cor. 1:25). The cross does not make God a helpless victim of evil, but is the secret of his power and his triumph over evil. This is why ‘only the suffering God can help’.

The anthropological corollary is, as always, important. The man or woman who lives within the pathos of the crucified God becomes capable of real love, which is concerned for others, sensitive to their suffering, ready for the pain of loving the unlovable, vulnerable to sorrow and hurt as well as open to joy and pleasure. If a cold and invulnerable self-sufficiency is not the divine ideal, it is a foolish idolatry to make it the human ideal.

— Richard Bauckham, “‘Only the Suffering God Can Help’: Divine Passibility in Modern Theology” in Themelios 9:3 (1984): 12.

Our picture of God shapes our picture of ministry.

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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