LOUISVILLE — As I write this article, it is the season of Lent — a time when we remember Jesus’ suffering that culminated in his crucifixion. During Lent, the awareness of Christ’s suffering for us and for our salvation is heightened by special Bible studies, small groups gathering for prayer, and personal journeys of introspection that focus on the demands of discipleship.
By the time I write my next article, we will have celebrated Easter — the purpose behind the focus on Christ’s suffering during Lent. With Christians everywhere we will affirm on Easter that “Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!” We celebrate in the resurrection the triumph of suffering love for the redemption of the world. Evil and violence do not have the last say. The final and decisive word is the love of God, which is the ultimate power in the universe.
One of the places where I have witnessed most keenly the realities of Lent and Easter is Sudan. I have never been in a place, before or since, where the suffering is greater. People were starving then, as they are today. Thousands are needlessly dying from easily treatable diseases in our part of the world. Wars seem to have no hope of ending.
In the midst of the unexplainable suffering, I will never forget the witness of one of the elders in the Presbyterian Church in Lar, a small village that had ballooned in size as it was overcome by thousands of internal refugees. To my surprise, the elder greeted me by telling me that, in spite of the extreme suffering, the hearts of all those in the church in Lar were filled with joy because of the resurrection of Christ and the promise from the apostle Paul that they experienced as true:
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:37-39).
Our friends in Sudan have it right! The love of God that we experience in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is the most powerful thing in the entire world. It is this reality that gives us the strength to overcome the evil and travail of the world and to live as people of faith, hope, and love. May the resurrection of Christ bring a special joy to your life this Easter, and may it renew our church.