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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

When we would run towards danger


 

The young firefighter, open-eyed and apprehensive, runs up the stairwell as everyone else runs down. Within minutes the North Tower is going to collapse. An image for Good Friday.

 

For that is what disciples of Jesus are called to do.  After all, what else could Jesus mean when he invites us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him?  It means going where no one else would go, to where people are suffering, to where evil is at its most intense. 

 

I remember the late Alan Godson once remarking that where people are suffering, you will find Christians. A feature of all our social services is that almost without exception they were founded by Christians, from Elizabeth Fry in the care of prisoners following the Napoleonic wars to Paddy and Carol Henderson who founded the first food bank in Salisbury in 1997.

 

In all this we draw our resource, inspiration and example from Christ and him crucified. 

 

So on this special day we recall how Jesus was nailed to a wooden cross, betrayed, abandoned and disgraced. For here we see most vividly love so amazing, so divine. 

 

As Chris Hancock writes:  “The only Son dies in our place, the righteous Judge is unjustly condemned, the true King is brutally overthrown, the Creator is killed, and all for love’s sake and ours.” 

 

Essentially Jesus takes the very power of evil head on, everything that would demean and destroy us, everything that would ruin God’s good creation.  At an awesome cost. 

 

We may not know, we cannot tell

What pains He had to bear,

But we believe it was for us

He hung and suffered there.

 

But of course, Good Friday is not the end but the beginning, as the risen Jesus calls on us to follow him – and like him and in his name, take on the power of evil which stalks our world. 

 

And at the cross we see how God works, through sacrificial love.  Which means that suffering is part and parcel of the Christian life.  So the apostle Paul makes it crystal clear:  “If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory.”  (Romans 8:17 JBP)

 

So when we surrender to Christ, the Holy Spirit starts his work of making us more like Jesus, a hard task by any reckoning.  But he’s God and so against every expectation he will inevitably succeed. 

 

So self-centred and wayward as we are, we find ourselves thinking just like Jesus.  I remember experiencing this as a very young Christian, somehow becoming a better person without any conscious effort.  It was unsettling but Roger patiently explained this is what the Holy Spirit  does. 

 

Even today I can remember him quoting the apostle Paul (in the Authorized version, naturally), as we walked along Oxford Road:  “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

One important effect of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us is that we seek out suffering, where people are in pain or in peril we seek them out.  We go up the stairwell, even at colossal risk.  (And this day, above all, we pray for those Christians who deliberately risk death in Jesus' name.)

 

Going back to the Authorised Version, known to our American cousins as the King James Version,  I’ve been reading this week from Tom Wright how it mistranslates a verse later in Romans 8.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” 

 

That somehow all the puzzling pieces of our jigsaw come together to our good may be true but this is not what Paul is teaching.  Wright’s translation brings out, I believe, the true, even more reassuring meaning.  “We know, in fact, that God works all things together for good with those who love him, we are called to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). 

 

God is the subject of the verb: he is doing the doing.  And the Greek word is synergeō meaning “work with” or collaborating together in a shared task.  And this is the amazing implication, it is not as if we work with God but that God works with us. 

 

In other words we see a person or people in need and however challenging the task, we decide to get involved.  It’s as if we then suggest it to God who then says: “Yes, go for it.  I will be with you every step of the way.  And if you need anything, just ask.”   

 

This is our privilege as disciples of Jesus.  We learn to see through his eyes, to feel with his heart and to act with his resurrection authority.  In his name, we would take on the powers which would hurt us,, even “hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” (Romans 8:35)

 

And amazingly, even as we flounder and fail, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (v37).   Notice the tense, the past (aorist): loved, referring to an event.  It is the cross of Jesus, his victory, which makes all the difference. 

 


 

 

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