A thought on suffering and the call for Christians

A reporter once asked Mother Teresa, “When a baby dies alone in a Calcutta alley, where is God?” She responded to him,

“God is there, suffering with that baby.  The question really is, where are you?”

This quote came up in a sermon I just read from a friend.

I don’t want to be cliché, nor do I want non-christians to be offended, I’m looking at Teresa’s response as a call for Christians.  Christians are called to a rather high standard: love your neighbour; give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back; welcome the strangers, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.

Where are we when there is such suffering?

In Tom’s sermon he discusses how we are called to the margins, called into relationship, called to equal relationships where barriers are broken down.  We are called to have reciprocal relationships where we “walk with” the other, don’t have defined rules that can stifle the spirit of Christ to work, care, and show gentleness.

I like what Tom has to say about our society, our comforts, and the call of Christ:

One of the major faults of Jesusʼ society and ours is that
we push people out. We see certain people as having more importance and others as having less. This simply will not fly for Jesus. If there is any group or individual that we devalue, that is exactly where Jesus will go. This therefore is where the church of Christ and his followers must also go in order to serve.

We like to be with those who are at the centre. We like
to be with those who we know, those who aren’t struggling with money, who are self-sufficient upstanding citizens.

So the call to be yielded to Christ is a very scary one because we very much know where it will take us.

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “A thought on suffering and the call for Christians

  1. I like your friend Tom’s message very much! I wish that all christian organizations could embrace it. The world is full of suffering gone ignored, and in some cases intensified, by so many christians. But indeed helping to alleviate suffering, going to where it’s found and doing what we can, is something that christians and non alike should be doing. But there’s more!

    An example: why that calcuttan baby was dying alone in the alley? Let’s say, for the sake of the example, that the baby is an AIDS orphan. The question then is where was Mother Theresa when that baby’s parents should have been educated about safer sex; learned that condoms effectively prevent the spread of HIV?
    Now I know that is a hypothetical, but it’s not an outlandish example, and it serves well to illustrate my point. That point being that suffering shouldn’t just be dealt with, it can be precluded.

    What a wonderful challenge that would be! Instead of simply feeding the poor and visiting the sick we could prevent the poverty and the disease.

    We could create inclusive environments for all children, so they don’t end up hanging from the rafters in their grandmother’s barn because too many of their peers called them a fag. We could support the aforementioned safer sex education (even if so many churches don’t – I’m looking at you, Vatican), so that there are less orphans. The list is exhaustive.

    I’ve noticed this trend with christian charity. Lovely and kind and thoughtful as it often is, it’s too often a bandaid and not a vaccine.

    • I came across this again after all these years. I realize that I said I would have to think about what you have said Sean and I never ended up replying. I think I am in a place now that I can approach a reply.

      I fully agree that the work of education is a work that the Church should be a part of and that many traditions (including the Catholic Church which Mother Theresa was part of) often stand embarrassingly in the way of this. That said, I don’t think that it is fair to say that Mother Theresa should be questioned “where were you when that baby’s parents should have been…”. We each have a particular role and calling to which we are called by Jesus. As St. Paul put it, “there are many parts but one body…” (1 Cor. 12:20ff). We can’t all do everything and that is why we need each other. Few come close to the faithfulness that Mother Theresa exemplified in her calling to the victims of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis within Calcutta. This is not to say that her work constitutes the be all and end all of what needs to be done in the broad work of justice pursuit. There are many roles that need to be filled in bringing about justice and we should each find our role. To paraphrase another saying of Mamma T, “find your own Calcutta!”

      Sean thanks for your thoughtful response as it has helped me sharpen my own thinking even after all these years. If by some means you see this, I’d love for you to respond back with your thoughts.

  2. Jordan,

    I believe that it is proper etiquette when re-posting someones work to let them know…I only found this due to my narcissistic googling of my name!

    That said, I very much appreciate your kind words in regards to my work. I also appreciate the comments of those here and will have to think about what Sean has said.

    • Tom, I apologize for not following proper etiquette. This, I think, was part of my school work last year, and I imagine it was done very late at night the day before it was due – I should have, at the very least, notified you after the fact. A very cool class, sociology: Christianity and Popular Culture.

      I’m glad you are now made aware of me re-posting your work. I’ve sent the link of that sermon to a few people, I hope you don’t mind!

      • I don’t mind you sharing that sermon at all…I’m rather quite proud of it as it provides the theological underpinnings to the work I now do.

        Hope life is well with you. You are missed.

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