“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” Okay…but when will they truly be comforted? The more closely you study the Beatitudes, the more you realize that Jesus is talking about eschatological consolation, not comfort here and now. This becomes clear from the final clauses in some of the other Beatitudes—such as “for they shall inherit the earth,” or “for they shall see God.” How does this help us with our grief here and now when we need COMFORT NOW?
I used to think that the Holy Spirit was rather like my granny’s big velvety blanket placed over us on a cold winter’s night. Doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus would send another Comforter? Actually, that turns out to be a rather bad translation. What that text probably means is “I will send another Counselor/Advocate.”
The role of the Spirit is not in the main to make us feel snuggly, warm, or safe or bullet proof. After all, it is the Spirit that keeps propelling us into mission, into battle as part of the Salvation Army. Comfort is hard to come by here and now for those mourning a tragic loss, and Christians need to beware of offering glib clichés, or Scriptural McNuggets as a means of comfort. Sometimes you need to go and mourn with those who mourn rather than serve up chicken soup for a wounded soul.
On the whole, I think part of the problem for 21st-century Christians is we have caught the disease of our culture — the disease of a strong, even overwhelming sense of entitlement, not to be confused with great expectations. The entitlement mentality says “I have a right to life.” We even have a “right to life movement” for the unborn, which is what I would call doing the job half way. If you are going to go that route, the born have as much “right to life” as the unborn. That’s in part why yours truly is a pacifist for Jesus sake. I believe in being totally pro-life, not just pro unborn life.
Here, I must focus on a simple Biblical fact: Life is a gift from God. It’s not a right. It never was a right, and never will be a right. It is a gift.
Once you let that really sink in and saturate your theo—logic, then what follows is that we are not OWED more of it. We are not OWED a certain quantity of time or of life in this world. It simply isn’t true. And that leads to a further truth: it is not an injustice when someone dies young. It’s not a justice issue at all, since life is a gift, not some sort of ironclad right. God does not owe us a certain quotient of life. Indeed, he does not owe us life or birth at all. It’s a gift!
So, when I think about my sweet-pea Christy dying way before me, I must resist the temptation to think somehow THIS IS UNFAIR. No. It’s tragic, to be sure. It’s sad, shocking and horrible in many ways. But it’s not an injustice. If all of life is grace, then we have to think differently about this issue.
A wise person once said that justice is when you get what you deserve, mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve (in a negative sense), and grace is when you get undeserved blessing. Life falls into that third category, not the first or second ones. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly, but its not because we DESERVE TO LIVE OR GO ON LIVING, it’s not because it’s owed to us. It’s a gracious blessing.
And here’s the good news. God wants us to have it — and have it everlastingly. In the next post, I want to focus on the mystery of life and death. But in the meantime, have a look at the joy those three are having in the picture above. This is what God had in mind — life with joy abundant, not life with horrible pointless non-martyrological suffering and then death. To quote Jesus himself: Our God is a God of the Living, not a God of the Dead. Even the dead in Christ are still living!