January has been a hard month. Hard news has broken all over the world, from the attacks in the Middle East to the fires in Australia to the virus in China to the continued impeachment trials in the U.S., not to mention the recent tragic deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter. Everywhere the world is crying out. Everywhere the world is groaning (Romans 8:22).
In the midst of it all, Jesus is Lord, and in no way does that underwrite the reality that the world is falling down around our shoulder, disintegrating in our hands. If anything, the good news that Jesus is Lord, that he died for us to redeem us from these effects of the fall, points to how serious the world’s pain is and how serious Jesus takes that pain. Jesus would not have died for a world that was not dying. Jesus would not have died for a world he did not love (John 3:16).
When I was growing up, my mother consistently told me, “To undermine sin is to undermine God’s grace, and to undermine God’s grace is to undermine sin.” In many ways, it’s a paraphrase of 1 John 1:8-10. By extension, if we belittle the world’s suffering which is a result of sin, we belittle God’s sacrifice of love. If we belittle God’s sacrifice of love for our sins, we belittle the world’s suffering.
Jesus himself acknowledges (understands, recognizes, empathizes, suffers with us) that we will suffer in this world, perhaps even more so for being his followers. “In this world you will have tribulation,” the apostle John records Jesus’ words. “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Take heart, friends. They called his name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)