Sunday, August 21, 2016

Assigned Reading

School has started in our neck of the woods. Easy summer mornings have turned in to carpool and schedules. On my 10th grader's school supply was buying a copy of The Kite Runner. The teacher included a note to the parents that required signed permission for the student to read the book. Her note started with "The Kite Runner is a novel about friendship, betrayal, and the price of loyalty. It is about the bonds between fathers and sons, and the power of their lies. Written against a history that has not been told in fiction before, The Kite Runner describes the rich culture and beauty of a land in the process of being destroyed. But with the devastation, Khaled Hosseini also gives us hope: through the novel’s faith in the power of reading and storytelling, and in the possibilities he shows for redemption.” The story was set in Afghanistan before the Russians invaded it. The book contains mature content including one of the boys in the book being raped by another character, children used as sex slaves and attempted suicide by a little boy. It was heart wrenching.

Scenes of innocence lost and sacrifice have been playing through my mind since finishing the book and though this book is fiction, I been haunted by this story.  Everything around me has been filtered through the shock and grief of knowing people all over the world have experienced even worse than what was portrayed in this book.  I've watch news broadcasts about the horrific fighting in Syria and am haunted by pictures of blood covered kids pulled out of buildings, I received a note from Samaritan's Purse on the civil war in South Sudan that is tearing up that country, a Wall Street Journal article told about the thousands of boys taken by Boko Haram in addition to the hundreds of school girls kidnapped as “wives”, it seems as if pictures of refugees washing up in Greek islands have become common place, and even here in America, I sat through a presentation this week about human trafficking in my hometown. My heart is overwhelmed by the suffering that comes because people are hurtful and can be depraved in ways that are beyond my comprehension. As I am trying to figure out how to talk about The Kite Runner with my teenager, I can't help but think about the connection between sin and suffering. If you think about all the ways that people mess up, it becomes obvious that every sin causes suffering to ourselves and often to other people.

I don’t know why I am still shocked by the sin and suffering in the world.  Many years ago, after reading through the Bible a couple of times, I realized every person in the Bible except Jesus messed up.  Romans 3:23 puts it this way, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” (NLT)  Some people messed up really badly through murder, incest, adultery and idolatry.  Others’ sins were more subtle like pride, envy or deceit. One of the most common failings of kings in the Old Testament was the failure to tear down the high places; this was a sin of spiritual complacency, of not wanting to rock the boat and not assuming their spiritual responsibility.  The ways that I have hurt people and have neglected to assume spiritual responsibility are extensive.   
  
Amir, the main character spends much of the novel trying to atone for his pride, cowardice and complacency.  His failure to act created a chasm between him and his Kite Runner, Hassan.  Our sinfulness has created a chasm between God and us.  People all around the world have devised religious ways of atoning for sin. Their faithfulness to burn incense before a statue, to go to the temple, to complete Jihad, and follow every rule in their religion becomes a way to compensate for the hurt we cause ourselves and others. The goal of these actions is to create enough good to outweigh the bad. Since it is impossible to know if we ever do enough to balance out the hurt and harm we cause ourselves and others, the striving for atonement never ends.

This is a vicious never ending cycle unless it is broken by the perfect sacrifice.  In Christ we don’t have to sacrifice and atone for our sins; He did it all.  This is explained very clearly in 1 Peter 2:24 which says, "’He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’" Jesus carried every sin with him to the cross.  His wounds and suffering atoned for our pride, anger, envy, deceit, incest, murder, idolatry, selfishness, complacency and every other hurtful thing we have done or has been done to us. 

The amazing thing about Jesus’ sacrifice for us is that while we were still sinners he died for us. (Romans 5:8) Jesus carried every burden and grief to the cross because He knew that people will never be good enough on their own strength.  He suffered so that no matter what we do, we don’t have to.  He paid the price so that we would be free.  Free to worship, free to live, and free to enjoy life in abundance.

Take a minute to thank Him for his sacrifice, rejoice that you are set free and give him glory for his amazing love.  “For God so loved the world that he sent His only son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16
       


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