The Cross of Christ and Suffering
Several people have mentioned to me the illustration I used Sunday about the slums of Rio and the statue of Christ standing high on the mountains. I found that illustration in The Cross of Christ by John Stott. Here it is in its entirety:
It is not surprising that slums are hotbeds of bitterness and resentment; the wonder is that the sheer inhumanity and injustice of it all does not breed an even more virulent anger. Rolf Italiaander imagines a poor man from one of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, who climbs laboriously 2,310 feet up to the colossal statue of Christ, which towers above Rio, "The Christ of Corcovado." The poor man speaks to the statue:
I have climbed up to you, Christ, from the filthy, confined quarters down there . . . to put before you, most respectfully, these considerations: there are 900,000 of us down there in the slums of that spledid city . . . and you, Christ, . . . do you remain here at Corcovado surrounded by divine glory? Go down there into the fevalas. Come with me and live with us down there. Don't stay away from us; live among us and give us new faith in you and in the Father. Amen.
What would Christ say in response to such an entreaty? Would he not say "I did come down to live among you, and I live among you still"? . . .
On the cross of Jesus God himself is crucified. The Father suffers the death of the Son and takes upon himself the pain and suffering of history. And in this ultimate solidarity with human beings God "reveals himself as the God of love."
Stott goes on to summarize this chapter about the cross and human suffering with these profound words:
I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as "God on the cross." In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? . . . In imaginiation I have turned to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divines suffering. "The cross of Christ . . . is God's only self-justification in such a world" as ours.
John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p.p. 324 - 327.