Thought for the Day by Toby Parsons (All Hallows’)
Suffering and sin. Generosity and grace.
Our reading today (Romans chapter 5) covers these two pretty heavy themes. We hear about glory in suffering. And we go on to read of ungodliness and sin.
It’s not hard to find religious teachings that speak loudly of suffering and sin. We may be told that our trespassess cause our tribulations. Perhaps we should ask what we’ve done wrong in order to cause our suffering? That was a question posed by some of Job’s friends, and to which he replies in today’s old testament reading (Job chapter 9).
Paul, the author of Romans, experienced plenty of tribulations. And he was aware of his own weaknesses. But he didn’t link them together along the “suffering is a punishment for sin” line. Nor did he rejoice in suffering because it in some way cleansed or purified him from sin.
What we hear about instead in Romans is reconciliation, hope, and life through Jesus.
If we turn back to Job, we can read this plea – “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more”. In his death and resurrection, Jesus becomes that mediator. God, in infinite grace and generosity, gives us the gift of hope.
That doesn’t mean that our lives are suddenly straightforward and easy. That wasn’t the experience of Paul and other first century Christians. It probably isn’t our experience today.
Paul sets out a journey from suffering to hope. There will be plenty of times when we can only make that journey with a lot of encouragement from the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we’ll get stuck for a bit. And no doubt we’ll get more things wrong along the way. But we can keep moving in that direction.
We shouldn’t dismiss our suffering and sin. But we should remember they’re always overshadowed by God’s generosity and grace.