This man whom I am, Jesus has also been. Of him only it is valid to say that nothing human was alien to him. Of this man, we say: “This is God for us.”
I work with a guy who is bitter. When I say bitter, you should know that I have fairly high standards in this arena. I have perfected it like some pathetic black art in my own heart that would land me as an extra on the new Harry Potter movie. What were those floating things? Orcs? Just kidding. I know they were Ringwraiths.
But I was telling you about this guy I work with who is really bitter. Even by my standards he is a bitter guy. And you know what? He has some pretty good reasons. He is an older African-American man who grew up in Birmingham in the 60’s and 70’s. If you can’t figure why that would shape a man, it may be a good idea to talk to somebody who has been disregarded by society at large and the church in general. Oh yes. The church in Birmingham during the 20th Century has a checkered past of abuse and segregation. The place, above all places on the face of the earth that should have provided unity and safety only reinforced the racist feelings and actions of a city guarded by policemen who were more than willing to spray children with a fire-hose as the K-9 unit terrorized the defenseless.
As my co-worker grew up, he got married an started a family, 20 years later to see his precious wife die from a seemingly-routine operation. The hospital, like all the others, turned their back on him, refusing to admit fault and denying the poor widower even the satisfaction of an apology.
When you think about it, he really does have a lot to complain about. But then again, don’t most of us? Who among us have been universally loved and accepted? Who among us has had a pain-free life? Who among us has not lost somebody close, precious and dear to us? We all have plenty of justification for bitterness and complaint.
But what we do not realize is that this bitterness really will destroy us. It is like Tolkien’s Ringwraiths. They were so evil that they became less and less till finally they were almost nothing. Ghost-riders in the sky.
Life does not need to be like this.
God is for us. We know this because Jesus lived life, just like we do. He was disregarded. He was rejected. He was lonely. He was poor. He endured this all willingly. Because he loves us.
How much more convincing do we need than to hear the simple words that God has dwelt with us? God became man because he loved us too much to let us fade away into the half-light. So he took on flesh. He lived a simple life. He lived a difficult life. He lived our life.
And so when Paul goes on and on in that sounds-too-good-to-be-true part of Romans 8, we know that there is some authority behind the words. If God is for us, who can be against us? That is the point. We know that God is for us because he gave himself, not only in death, but also in life.
It really is like what Bonhoeffer said. We take a look at the life of Jesus and we see, once and for all, that this man is the God who is for us. He loves us enough not only to die, but also to live for you and me.
And so for all the reasons my co-worker has for clutching onto bitterness, he is missing one very key truth. God is for him. He is on his side. He knows what it is like to be man. He knows these roads. He offers freedom, peace, joy, wholeness and life along the journey.
God has not given up on us. Far from it. God is for us- in our dying and in our living. We know that because he lived this life on our accounts.
With this wholeness at our disposal, we have every reason to come out of the shadows and be made new.