Greetings. Rob here.
Friday saw the holding of a National Memorial for the 50 victims of the two mosque shootings in Christchurch 2 weeks ago. It has been a sobering time for a generally peaceful nation like ours. There has been a lot of love and sympathy poured out to the Muslim communities and they have responded with much grace and affection. It truly has been a time of coming together as citizens, as friends and as family. I was one of those who stood outside our local mosque last Friday in solidarity as our Muslim community gathered to pray and worship. I wasn’t there despite my Christian faith, but because of it. I was there because of Jesus.
One of our favourite texts in the Christian faith is John 3:16-17:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
These verses tell us God’s heart towards his creation. It is a heart of love and a heart that desires restoration and reconciliation. God’s answer to the brokenness and sin of the world is Jesus. It is “to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14).” Jesus is God saying yes to humanity. But Jesus didn’t just identify with humanity as a whole. He made a very deliberate point of identifying with the powerless and the vulnerable. He was born among the animals, baptised with the sinners, walked with the poor, ministered to the outcasts and died between two thieves. He even lived in Galilee, an outcast province on the edge of the empire. There is no greater symbol of powerlessness than the cross. Crucifixion was the ultimate statement of Rome’s power, but Paul says that Christ…
having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15).
The symbol of humiliation is actually a symbol of victory. Why? One reason is that it shows us that the ones with the guns are not the powerful ones. God identifies with the suffering ones, the tortured and abused, the victim and the voiceless, the powerless and the poor. The victims of the mosque shooting may not be able to name Christ as Lord, but he stands with them in their suffering anyway. So on Friday at the mosque I stood with Jesus, along with many others.
It’s not easy to stand with victims because victims carry much pain and hurt. It’s uncomfortable. It challenges and exposes me. I need a lot of practice to learn how to stand with Jesus in that pain. It’s his pain. He knows it, bears it, redeems it and heals it. The cross is also the place where the terrorist who inflicted this pain needs to go. Only the cross has the capacity to take his sin and bring him mercy. The cross will reveal the weight of his sin to him, but it is also the only place where the weight of grace can surpass that sin.
My prayer is that our hurting nation will discover cross of Christ and the forgiveness, mercy and healing that dwells there. Our common ground is that we’re all in desperate need of the cross even if many can’t name that need. It is as people made in God’s image, but who all carry it in a flawed way, that we find our common ground.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).