Monday, February 18, 2013

The Innocent Suffer


Growing up, I was taught that we are born sinners. I was taught that from the moment we are conceived, we are sinners, because we inherit what’s called “The Old Adam.” In other words, we inherit a sinful nature from our parents, and we’re in need of redemption from the moment we’re born, and therefore in need of the grace supposedly administered at infant baptism. I grew up believing that if a newborn died without being baptized, it was considered lost. This is part of what’s called a Calvinist view, that our sin is something beyond our choices. We’re so much a sinful race of people, that we’re guilty from birth, or even conception.

Some years later, I became a part of a more evangelical and fundamental church. I was introduced to a very different point of view: that sin had to do more with our choices. Yes, we as fallen human beings did have a sinful nature, but we choose to live sinfully or righteously. This is part of what’s called an Arminian view, that we have a choice to live holy or selfishly. We can choose or reject salvation in Christ.

For a long time, I didn’t buy the latter theory. It was difficult to jettison the Calvinistic view I’d grown up with. I was still mostly aligned with the thinking, “You don’t have to teach a child to be naughty.” I couldn’t argue it thoroughly, but I couldn’t quite buy the theory that kids were born completely innocent. However, given the fact that some (aborted or miscarried) never get to choose, I came to think that the truth was somewhere in between Calvin and Armin.

Then Hannah came into our family. One of Hannah’s captivating qualities, part of her light, is her profound innocence. There is not a shred of rebellion or self-centeredness within her. Sure, she fusses or cries when she’s uncomfortable, or in pain, or frightened. But Hannah hasn’t seemed to have developed that tendency to manipulate that we’re having to discipline out of our older three children. Hannah never chooses the best for herself, never insults anyone, never judges anyone, never boasts, never lies, and never hurts anyone. She’s innocent.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Well, of course she never insults or manipulates anyone. She doesn’t know how. There isn’t enough cognitive ability or reason or consciousness of self to do it!” And you’re right. But innocence is still innocence - whether by choice or default.

So, what? Well, we all believe in good, old-fashioned justice, right? The good guys win, the bad guys lose, and everyone gets what’s coming to them, right? So, if Hannah is innocent, why does she suffer? Why did she of all people have to endure heart surgery at age seven months? Why does innocent little Hannah have to go through the nausea that accompanies anesthesia? When kids younger than Hannah easily play with her toys, why can’t she? Why does innocence, even innocence not chosen, have to suffer?

That’s a question we won’t fully have an answer for until the next life, and God explains all the mysteries to us. I don’t fully know, nor even claim to be capable of understanding the issue fully. But I do know this: in a fallen, sinful world - the innocent, sinless Son of God had to suffer and die for a world of sinful human beings. The innocent One who called Himself “the Light of the world” suffered on behalf of the guilty. I don’t think Hannah suffers on behalf of anyone else. Jesus suffered that Hannah might have eternal life as well. But Hannah’s suffering in innocence is part of the profound, bright light of her life. Her life is sort of an analogy of Jesus Christ.

I have several reminders of Christ - the famous Warner Sallman portrait of Jesus, a cross on a chain, and another famous painting entitled, “The Road to Emmaus.” They are powerful reminders of the presence of the living Christ in my life. But none of them are as powerful of a reminder of Jesus as Hannah’s suffering in innocence. It’s part of Hannah’s light.

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