1. Consider how any single religious tradition copes with the problem of suffering and evil in the world. Nearly every human being on earth has asked this common question. “Why all the suffering and evil in this world? ’. The presence of evil and suffering has forced adherents of all religious traditions to question their beliefs, their religious identity and their understanding of the ultimate reality. Christians in particular, are faced with these questions and life situations of suffering and evil, confronted to them, on a daily basis.
When confronted with life situations they have questioned why an all powerful and an all loving God would allow this to happen. There has been a variety of responses to these questions. Christians have explained suffering and evil as, ultimate judgement of sin, consequences in living in a fallen world, and perhaps the idea of the world not being created in a perfects sense. These are just one of the many responses Christians have thought. However, even though Christians may never know the definite explanation, Christians cope with the idea of evil and suffering by finding ways to respond to it.
With the idea of love and compassion taught by Jesus Christ, their goal is to find multiple ways to end suffering and evil through various organizations, actions, deeds and prayers. This illustrates that Christians respond to suffering so the creation of an ideal society in which all suffering and evil can be eliminated. Furthermore, Christians can come to experience the new kingdom of Christ, where love, peace and tranquillity are the centre of all. Suffering which is remotely linked to evil, forces adherents to understand the different kinds of suffering, and how it affects their outlook on life and death.
The website “Suffering and the problem of Evil” states that “Human suffering, takes on many forms: emotional, natural, and moral. Loneliness, anxiety, and grief are examples of emotional suffering. Fires, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, and physical illness are examples of natural suffering. Moral suffering is brought on by the deliver act acts of a fellow human beings to cause suffering, something Christians call a moral evil” (Suffering and the problem of Evil. 2013) This demonstrates the result of moral evil leading to emotional, physical and even at times natural disasters.
Suffering therefore brings Christians back to reality, to come into realisation with their mortality, which is very easily ignored. It demonstrates the flaws and hints of Christian’s coming death “It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortess of a rebel” (Lewis, Problem of Pain, pg 83) It creates an atmosphere, ultimately, in which Christian’s thoughts are directed towards God. “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts us in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (Lewis, Problem of Pain, pg 84).
The painful statement of Lewis states, demonstrate the truth about death. That death is horrific no matter what form it may take. So suffering in a Christian perspective, allows them to gently prod on their consciousnesses and forces them to understand that suffering may indeed lead to their future deaths, if they were to leave suffering without response. However if Christians can cast their doubt and turn to God, it can therefore bring a foundation of a new thinking, attitude, hope and living, not only to themselves, but to their faith.
In the book of Corinthians, the apostle Paul states “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies”, which demonstrate this tension. Furthermore, the term “suffering and evil” provides many benefits to the Christian Faith. Suffering provides Christians to give proof of the genuineness of their faith, and to serve to purify, and carry their faith.
It provides the opportunity for believers to demonstrate their love for each other as adherents of the body of Christ who “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) D. A Carson a Reformed Evangelical Theologian once stated that “experiences of suffering…. engender compassion and empathy.. and make us better to help others” (Carson, 122). This demonstrates how experiences of a Christian’s own suffering and comfort they receive from the ultimate reality, makes Christians more equipped to help those who are still in suffering and victims of evil.
Just as the apostle Paul states in the Book of Corinthians “Who comforts us in all of our troubles; so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God”. ( 2 Corin 1:4) However most importantly, Christians can cope with suffering and evil as their affliction in God increases them to follow God’s will. In the Book of Hebrews, Jesus “learned obedience from the things he suffered (Heb 5:8). He learnt the value and significance of submitting the will to God, even at the time it was the most difficult thing in the world o do. Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision, witnessed this kind of teaching and devotion God, when World Vision visited Sri Lanka to provide aid and emergencies to those who were victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami “ Many people in Sri Lanka though, who were directly affected , were asking a different question.
They were asking how they could not believe in God as a result of the tsunami, since God was all they had left” (Bible Study, Where is God in Suffering- World Vision. 013) Suffering and evil also provides Christians to improve on the relationship with other human beings, and to fulfil and follow their faith, in restoring compassion and God again in Christianity. Tim Costello provides an in depth view of how Christians can respond to suffering and evil, in the mindset of fulfilling faith and God’s word. In an interview he proclaims “Faith is incredibly important for me. In religious terms, I believe salvation is everything that restores the crippled image in God- dirty water, not enough food.
Sin I think is everything that cripples the image of God- not having access to education, injustice, inopportunity. For me that faith position that I believe everyone, despite the lottery of latitude, is made in the image of God is really the core of my faith and my life’ (Full Transcript, Tim Costello Enters the zone. 2013) Tim Costello places emphasis that Jesus challenges Christians to test out their faith, by responding to suffering, to encourage salvation and eliminate sin.
He believes that every human being is made in the likeness of God, so therefore all human beings should be treated with love and compassion. This can lead to the faith of Christianity and God to be restored, which has been abruptly destroyed by sin. God taught Christians the demonstrating of compassion by entering the world it in the form of Jesus, who suffered and died for all Christians. He demonstrated that God is not a God who rules from above but carries from below. Therefore he taught all Christians, to continue the work of compassion and faith through Jesus Christ by responding to suffering.
As what Jesus Christ said in the Book of John “as the Father sent me, I send you” (John 20:21) Suffering and evil have sometimes encouraged Christians to devote their lives entirely to helping those with evil and suffering. Not only do they devote their lives to this, but they also provide other Christians encouragement to contribute in the smallest way, in ending suffering. They have taught not only to the Christian faith, but to all religious traditions, how to incorporate Jesus teachings, but more specifically, love and hope. Mother Teresa is one of the many influential Christians who have taken upon this life.
Throughout her life, she went out and lived her faith by seeing her God in every human being in front of her, especially the sick, the aged, and the abandoned. She served God by serving God in them, demonstrating that she lived the Gospel with every breath in her body. She established hospitals for the sick and dying, and started the religious new order, the Missionaries of Charity, in Calcutta which is now practiced and spread throughout the world. She was devoted in caring for the poorest of the poor, the sick and the dying. She clean them, feed them, pray with them, and serve them as their spent their last hours in dignity.
She demonstrated compassion for those who were less fortunate then she is, as she once said to a man who she was picking muggets off his face “You pray to your God, and I will pray to Jesus for your healing” With the many attitudes and teachings that Jesus Christ and the Father have provided to their adherents, Christians have also devised many organizations and appeals in contributing to help those who are suffering and victims of evil. In example, many Christians have responded to those who are suffering in extreme poverty. There are many Christian organizations that deal with this.
These are World Vision, Compassion International, Salvation Army, Christian Aid and many more. All of these organizations also “have principles of the Christian religion in their charters” (What are the type of Different Christian NGOS? 2013) In example, the Salvation Army vision is “a growing, loving, community of people dynamically living God’s mission in a broken world” (The vision, mission and values of the Salvation Army. 2013) Compassion International places emphasis on “recognizing the suffering of others, then take action to help” (Meaning of Compassion. 013)
While all may have different mechanisms in responding to the issue of poverty, they all place emphasis on ending suffering and taking action. As the Book of Timothy says “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:18) Conclusively, Christianity provides adherents to respond to suffering and evil, in order to cope with it.
Christians are challenged and called by Jesus Christ, to realise the destruction of suffering and evil to all people of the world, and to act on it. Christians are called to act with love and compassion as they serve their faith and Lord, by providing essential needs, love and faith to all those who are still encountering suffering. However furthermore they are called to act as a collective and restore the image of faith and Christianity, and to provide hope, so a world of suffering and evil can soon be eliminated.
Courtney from Study Moose
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