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In the last few months it has become impossible to tune into the news without being stopped in your tracks by a tragedy. Before you can even begin to process what is happening the story has evolved and moved on, as yet another disaster unfolds. It feels relentless and overwhelming. Whether Manchester, London, Barcelona, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, the list continues to grow. When we are faced with these atrocities there is an innate sense that this is not how it should be. This was not God’s intended plan for His creation.
Tragedies like these magnify the worst and best of humanity. You see people treating others in the most appalling and horrendous ways, with a complete disregard for life. Paradoxically the same tragedy that generates a breeding ground for fear and division also causes strangers and communities to come together. Stories of the most incredible acts of sacrificial love, bravery, generosity and compassion emerge. This touches something deeper in us. It echoes the greatest love story of all. It points us to Jesus and lifts our eyes to a God who doesn’t just demonstrate love, but who is Love.
God chose to rescue humanity through the most mind blowing act of sacrificial love. When He spoke the words ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:13) He truly meant them. Jesus knew what was to come and yet He still chose to endure the cross and being separated from His Father, so that we could be brought back into relationship with Him. He called us friends when we deserved to be known as His enemies; our sin, our shame like nails on His cross.
In this profound and beautiful mystery the death of Jesus, who was innocent in every way, satisfied God’s requirement for justice, whilst displaying His phenomenal love, grace and mercy towards us. Thankfully, the story does not end there. In a dramatic turn of events the tomb was found to be empty. God raised Jesus from the dead and returned Him to His rightful place as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Love has conquered, even death. Jesus is alive. Love has won and Love will win.
As a result we are now living in the penultimate act of the story. For several months I have been mulling over what it means to live somewhere in between the ‘Now’ and the ‘Not Yet’. Recent events have brought this tension into sharp focus. By this I mean we get to live in the Now of the victory that Jesus’ death has accomplished, whilst also living in the Not Yet, waiting until God’s plan of redemption is fulfilled. The battle rages on, there will be pain to endure, but we know the war has been won. This is not about burying our heads in the sand or crossing our fingers on the off chance everything will work out. This is about hoping and loving courageously even when, or especially when, we are facing pain and grief, because this is not the end of the story. There will come a time when there will be no more death or pain and when every tear will be wiped away.
The question then is what do we do in the waiting? Do we hide from the horrors that take place? Do we develop a bunker mentality keeping the world at arm’s length? Everything from Jesus’ example points us to a God who was willing to endure pain in order for us to know His love. Jesus was described as a man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. He stepped into a broken and hurting world and in doing so changed the course of humanity. Jesus healed the sick, loved the unlovely, and brought peace and hope wherever He went. Broken lives were restored and ultimately a broken world will be restored because of Him.
So even as we grapple with the mystery and unanswered questions of tragedies we see not only on the international stage, but also the pain that we face in our own lives, let’s engage in the world around us. Let’s be men and women after God’s heart; willing to become acquainted with grief and sorrow so that we too can pray for the sick, love the unlovely, and bring God’s peace, hope and love to hurting people, just as Jesus did. When tragedies unfold let us be quick to ask the question: what can we do to help? Let us choose to hope. Let us choose unity when division is waiting at the door. Let us choose to step out in faith time and again. And let us choose to love so that our acts of love, no matter how small, point to a God who is Love.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)