It is a strange thing, our modern society.
We are so unaccustomed to pain. We know so little of it.
If we are ill, we are prescribed a medication to fix it. If we feel pain, we pop a pill. We eat and drink and make much of entertainment to silence out the emotional and spiritual pain we feel. Yet, with all our methods of self-medication, we cannot avoid all pain.
Two or three generations ago, death and pain were a common part of our existence. To eat we had to kill an animal of some kind and watch as it twitched and convulsed until its heart stopped. The agrarian culture forced us to acknowledge that life was cheap and pain was common. Before there was sufficient medications pain was a normal part of life. You did the best to manage it, but it was a normal part of your existence.
But now, we do not like the idea of pain or death or discomfort. We do everything we can to remain at ease. But we cannot avoid it forever.
Jesus understood pain. He understood misery. He had more than likely watched many times as the Romans crucified his people. He must have stood more than once at the bottom of a cross staring at the pinned body of a man taking his last breath. He saw sickness and disease all around him for thirty years. He was accustomed to pain.
It is no wonder, then, that he had compassion on the broken and the lost. It is no wonder that he reached out to the leper and the harlot and the widow and the children. He was familiar with their pain.
Isaiah 53, that great chapter that spoke prophetically of the messiah, tells us just what kind of man the messiah would be.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Isa. 53.3
But we are not.
So, when a black man is shot in the chest by a police officer and a whole community rises up in grief, we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to respond because we are so unfamiliar with pain and sorrow and grief. We are not people who suffer. We are not those who are familiar with pain.
So we try to rationalize it. We try to circumvent the pain by broadening the scope of the pain to include everyone. We make excuses and at the worst we trivialize the pain. Our theology doesn’t make a lot of room for pain and suffering and unanswerable things. We are supposed to be the people with the answer so rather than admit that we are lacking we make up answers that could never actually meet the need. We appeal to dogma and the security of somebody else’s opinion instead of just embracing the fact that sometimes we don’t have all the answers.
Jesus never did those things. He met pain with hope and life. He embraced the pain and took on the responsibility of carrying it for others. He didn’t always answer the question. In fact, sometimes he created more questions than answers. But He was always willing to meet the sick, the hurting, the oppressed right in the middle of their pain. He never shied away from those in true need.
If we are going to display the love of Jesus in the midst of the crisis that the African American community is currently feeling, then we must not make little of their pain. We must make much of their pain. We must embrace them as though it was our pain. We must respond as though it was our family lying dead on the street. We must love the broken and the hurting with a fierce love that transcends any skin color, background, religion or creed.
We cannot self-medicate away the pain or ignore their tears any longer.
A community is grieving and for us to look anything like Jesus, so must we.