Today we will sing “And Can it Be” in church. It has been and remains one of my favourite hymns even though some of the imagery is foreign in our contemporary world.
The first two lines are very much at the heart of my faith:
And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?Died he for me who caused his pain – for me, who him to death pursued.
When I was younger and my faith seemed to be more about what happened when I died I would only associate my ‘pursuit of Jesus to death on the cross’ with my personal demons and the struggles of the relationships that I had with those around me. The hymn provided a moralistic release from guilt.
Whilst not inappropriate to think in these terms when I sing these words today I consider more carefully the consequences of my pursuit of Jesus to the cross in terms of a bigger picture. Jesus death confronts us not only with what we are prepared to do God but even more poignantly to each other.
Like so many who may have stood at the foot of Jesus cross so long ago we too have become spectators to the macabre and disturbing images that assault us each and every day. We are implicated in the suffering and death of others even on distant shores and from distant times though we do not even know it.
Our choices pursue Jesus to the cross and put others alongside him: our choice to speak or stay silent on matters of justice: of child labour, of exploitation of workforces, of refugee and asylum issues, of sexism and racism, of bullying and domestic violence, of climate and ecological violence; our choice to participate in the consumerist culture; our choice to preference our own group over others; our choice for generosity or greed with regard to those who are in need.
Where do we understand the suffering of the world? How is it dealt with? So often my answer to this is to say that Jesus takes all this into himself as he dies for us. Yet in saying this I must recognise the lives of others who have suffered, hidden in Christ, that often have contributed to the privileged in way in which I live. I am left asking “whom else to have I to death pursued?”
My only sense of hope is that Jesus bled for the whole of Adam’s helpless race: people of every nation, of every religion, or every culture, of every age and of every gender. Though I cannot see it, though I cannot contain these problems in the hollow limits of my compassion, the good news of the risen Christ is that there is release for the suffering we have caused God and each other and hope for all: release for the perpetrators and victims alike who share the bond of being God’s loved creatures.
“Tis mercy all, immense and free!”