Lesson 4: Three Christian Ways

A Positive Attitude Can Relieve SufferingI have been using 2000 year-old biblical language to lay our groundwork. Bob reminds us we often must translate this into contemporary concepts by noting that science teaches us natural diasters are not “evil.” Lupe suggests more helpful biblical language used by the Gospel of John to describe evil as darkness that is overcome by light. This presents evil as the absence of good. Her comment on Lesson 3 uses that language to cover the practical ways that Christianity offers for overcoming the suffering of this life.

First, there is attitude. Our faith certainly offers hope. If God is engaged in the overcoming of suffering and evil, then we can be confident that our efforts are not in vain. Lupe speaks of this as “awareness,’ recognizing the blessings and joys of life.

Modern Christians might not agree that God creates all or makes all good. They might not feel comfortable describing God using tribulations to cleanse, not punish, our sin and creation’s corruption. But they share God’s promise to be present among us now and to wipe away all tears in the future. If God is with us in all this, if his love is in and behind all reality; then we can be confident that our suffering can be overcome.

That has a very practical affect. To use medicine as an example, our attitude promotes healing. Those who work with the sick report a positive attitude contributes to healing.

Second, the way to overcome evil is to do good. Paul often defines Christian love as returning good for evil. Lupe says much the same when she characterizes good as positive and evil as negative. She writes that being passive is to change nothing. It is to accept the status quo that causes suffering for so many. To act negatively, believing we can only choose the lesser of two evils, is simply to perpetuate the evil, adding more hate, racism, greed, and violence. Martin Luther King put it this way: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… The chain reaction of evil- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

Rather than being passive or taking negative actions that cause us to move backward, we are called to do more and more of those positive things that lead to a better world. Again to use medicine, healing is usually not promoted when we ignore a disease. Nor is disease ultimately overcome when we simply rely on medicines, with all sorts of side affects, to treat the immediate suffering of its symptoms. Real healing involves a response that changes our lifestyle and contributes to long term sustainable health.

Third, there is the support of the Christian community. Lupe implies this when she observes suffering can be made “less terrifying when families envelop each other in love.” This extends beyond the family to the entire Body of Christ. A loving, sharing community helps us overcome our individual suffering.

I plan to go on discussing these three responses in the next lessons. Let’s end this one with Lupe’s conclusion. “All this is to say that I believe God gave us humans the tools, the capacity for good and for happiness. When we do not use them, when we turn away from them, then we allow evil and suffering, like darkness and cold, to take over our lives.”

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3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. paul wildman says:

    For me ‘evil’ and i resist using this term, can mean ‘lack of hope’. And today we see this in our impacts on nature as well as fellow humans. So maybe doing good can be seen as ‘giving hope’ and finally it is this hope that binds Christian communities together. So for me the common denominator in Fritz’s three Christian ways is ‘hope’.

    What I am yet to find in Aust are Hope based Christian communities that operate on the basis of dispersed suburbia rather than a specific ‘geographic’ intentional community. Possibly there are some of these in the US.

    Ciao Paul

    • Fritz Foltz says:

      Paul, I think we have to use words like evil, but when we do we have to explain what we mean. You do that with lack of hope. I usually use the word sin when speaking of human acts that cause suffering and evil when speaking of natural events. Along those lines, I have trouble with theologians who think we should stop talking about love, because the word is so misused. Again I feel we have to define what Christians mean.

      I am not sure what you mean by dispersed suburbia communities versus geographic intentional ones.I do think the Church has had extreme difficulties expressing what the faith means outside of traditional local communities.

      • paul wildman says:

        Thx Fritz. I understand (and agree with) your comment re sin now thx.

        Re your last para above:
        (1) Where i live in Australia in a 300km stretch 9south of Brisbane starting in Northern NSW (the next State south of here) there are some 200 intentional communities/communes in the bush this is what i meant by ‘intentional communities’ and all these folks live contiguously (geographically and socially) that is next door to one another in the same community (I worked and stayed in a few of these when i was an academic – some of their members were studying in areas i was lecturing in)

        (2) For me i live in a standard suburban house in a standard suburb in a standard city – Brisbane that’s what i meant by suburbia and when i go to church i meet other folks living likewise but dispersed over several suburbs.

        I hope this makes sense.

        So the big challenge (for me) for Xtain community is No. 2 – in my view. How do we agglomerate while so dispersed and individual’ised and nuclear’ised. That is not going to change so we need a social technology to do this (with out all seeking to live in an intentional dispersed Xtian community). In my opinion.

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