Thursday, March 18, 2010

Unfinished Reflections on Job

So, do you think the book of Job is the Bible's answer to suffering, or just several different answers strung together by wisdom teachers? If you're thinking that Job answers the question of innocent suffering, on the surface, you may be right. A little deeper look touches on whether faith and suffering are exclusive, or if someone can be faithful without promise of reward. That is, can faith truly exist without hope of reward?

Like the poetry of Job, we too, run the gamut as we try to make sense of suffering:
  • Punishment for sin-retribution
  • Teaching us a lesson- disciplinary
  • Benching us from active community life- probative
  • Blessing or healing will come as a result- redemptive
  • Suffering reveals our motives and perhaps God- revelatory
  • Reasons for suffering can't be known- ineffable. See especially Job 28
  • No reason as suffering is random- incidental
We read Job through thick New Testament eyes, but these same explanations are reflected in the Christian canon itself, especially the belief that suffering is and can be redemptive. Romans 8 is this statement in its purer form. The crucifixion and resurrection is the event which I believe tilts the whole of the N.T. in this direction. If you surveyed parishioners though, you'd probably find a minority here, because many would prefer to avoid the unsavory topic.

We often find the Gospel very thinly presented as "I believe therefore I get." That is, if I do this, then I'll get something else. This has to be a turn-off for people who suspect a hidden agenda. Since Christians have been presenting it that way for many years, why should we complain about the prophets of weal when they adopt the same this for that theology? It is transactional, not transforming, love.

Isn't it interesting that even Jesus' suffering doesn't seem to throw us off the cycle of reward and punishment?
Christian believing is about repentance, partnership, covenant love, with the God of Jesus, who suffers with us and for us. God never wastes our pain, and in that sense, we can be blessed and healed, now and forever.

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