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Weekly Devotionals

The Church in Suffering

In just a couple of weeks, we have heard a countless number of tragedies all around Korea. From the stabbing incidents, teachers’ suicides, the drowning accident, and continuous online threats. During this time, we can’t help to ask the questions of why and who for the sake of responsibility and prevention. Unfortunately, however, often once society has found the scapegoat, whether it is the president, political party, or individuals, to place our anger, fear, and frustration, we return to our “peaceful” life.

Yet, as I was reflecting on these recent events, I wondered how well we’re capable of mourning and grieving darkness as a society. In fact, many psychologists suggest that the less you are capable of expressing and processing a sense of loss,  the more we would result in the posture of avoidance, demonizing, and scapegoating. As I observe how Korea has responded to these recent tragedies, it seems to me that we as a nation are not very good at facing the suffering and grieving perhaps due to our busyness and hyper-individualism. So, what should be our proper response in the midst of this?

The current Evangelical worship also reflects a similar posture and weakness towards others’ suffering. Especially in much of our Christian Sunday worship, the element of lament is very much absent and a strange concept in the Western minds of victory. However, I believe that the church has a quite unique mission and posture when it comes to suffering because of what or who makes a church, a church. For example, the church in its original word in the Bible simply means the people or the gathering. Yet, when we see in the book of John and Acts, the only and the most precious thing that distinguishes this group from any other gathering of people is their oneness with Christ. According to Paul, nonetheless, this oneness with Christ isn’t merely our “faith” in Jesus Christ. Instead, Paul writes in many places in his letters, particularly in the book of Philemon, that this faith and oneness in Jesus is “incomplete” and not at its full impact unless the oneness with Christ extends to oneness with others, especially those who are suffering.

So during this time of fear, disturbance, and sadness, what should be our response? Considering the importance of our oneness with Christ and others, I doubt that simply brushing off the problem or demonizing the perpetrator will be what may reflect the communion love that distinguishes us from any other organization. Instead, before we think of any great course of actions to be the church, perhaps we need to learn how to pause and pray. Even though we may not be able to physically be together with everyone who is suffering, there is power in simple pausing, lamenting, and asking the Spirit to reveal the people and the place we should be.