A recent social media re-post from Mark Van Steenwyk, the executive director of The Center for Prophetic Imagination.
At its best, Christianity isn’t about redemptive suffering. Suffering isn’t sacred. This is the classic mistake. That, somehow, enduring suffering is, in and of itself, something holy. This sort of thinking leads to the horrid idea that a soldier’s death renders their service holy. It is a lie that empires spin.
Rather, the way of Jesus tells us that holiness *enters* suffering. On the cross, God suffered. Holiness entered suffering, not to glorify suffering, but to be with those who suffer.
It is life that is sacred. In our suffering, God is present.
This is the powerful insight of liberation theology. God is uniqely present with the oppressed.
Why, then, is God uniquely present with the oppressed? Because God is compassionate. God draws near to those in pain, helping them to see the world as it is…to see through the lies…so that they might rise up.
It is a mistake to confuse the compassion of God with the sacredness of suffering. This mistake has plagued us for as long as Christianity has been a thing.
If there were no suffering, would God draw near at all? No, because a world without suffering is a world free from alienation.
God is already here. God is present. There is no need for God to draw near. But God enters into suffering, and is present with the oppressed so that the oppressed might lead us to a world free from alienation. And that is what is sacred.