Where The World Is In Pain

I am finishing N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus, which is an excellent and accessible book wherein Wright, doing the work of an historian, renders a provocative portrait of Jesus that is at once familiar and unfamiliar. The Jesus that Wright portrays is one who is firmly rooted in, and responsive to, the conditions of first century Palestine, and yet it is as such a figure that Wright effectively demonstrates Jesus’ relevance for us in this day and age.

All this said, a quote I would like to share from the book is not so much about Jesus, but rather about the vocation of Christians, and yet it is about Jesus, because Christian vocation is intimately bound to the person and work of Jesus. And so, without further ado, I give you the following:

The Christian vocation is to be in prayer, in the Spirit, at the place where the world is in pain, and as we embrace that vocation, we discover it to be the way of following Christ, shaped according to his messianic vocation to the cross, with arms outstretched, holding simultaneously to the pain of the world and to the love of God.

4 Responses to “Where The World Is In Pain”

  1. K.L.B.  

    I think it’s probably a whole lot easier just to write, “Help them.” Don’t you agree?

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Actually, no. A Marxist might say “help them,” but by that he or she would mean expose ideology and religious ideals for what they are: masks for underlying economic structures and interests. A Hindu might say “help them,” but by that he or she would mean open their eyes so that they can see that the world is Maya (illusion), and thus they will be able to release themselves from the patterns of the world by which they have constructed a self, which too is illusion. A Buddhist would say, help them, and for a Buddhist this would mean teach them to get out of desire.

    There are many traditions, religious, philosophical, and otherwise, that attempt to address the ills of humanity, but each tradition conceives of the problem differently, and therefore conceive of a different solution. This quote points to the cross as the solution, but places the meaning of the cross in the context of God’s unfolding plan of redemption through Israel for the world.

    Having said this, I think I get where you are coming from. I get that simplicity is not just a lifestyle virtue but an intellectual virtue as well. Yes, people can make things overly complicated, but it is also true that people can over simplify and thereby miss crucial details, and nuances of meaning. I think that Wright’s quote succinctly gets at an important detail, or discrete idea regarding Xian vocation.

  3. K.L.B.  

    Well now… you took that to a whole ‘nother level! And, in my opinion, unnecessarily so. I think we are presupposing that Christian is the name, and that presupposition is the starting point of dialogue.

    In your response, I sensed that presupposition is not present. Though I am not familiar with N.T. Wright’s work as you are, I know that he is a respected Anglican New Testament scholar and theologian, and therefore writes from the perspective of a Christian ethos.

    Christ said we should feed and clothe our enemies and the strangers among us. Those are distinctly unique directives, inherent to Christ alone.

    The issues of social justice – which I believe you tacitly touched upon in the first part of your response – should also be examined from a distinctly Christian ethos.

    It is our course of life to examine things from that Holy perspective, once we are in the family.

    ‘Course now, you probably see more in Wright’s excerpted statement than do I. But honestly, I think it’s quite more than should be written, and therefore tends toward confusion.

  4. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – I’m sorry about the defensiveness. I don’t think, however, that what Wright said can be whittled down to “help them.” There is something about being at the place of pain, in the Spirit, that seems more profound than providing help. Wright is pointing to a reality that is deeply connected to the restorative, healing, and transformative work of the Cross.