(BNC) Editorial by J. Randal Matheny — Roberta Edwards’s senseless murder Oct. 10 in Haiti made national and international news. I didn’t know her personally, but a lot of my friends did. She was a woman of God devoted to her task of caring for children in one of the world’s poorest, most corrupt countries.
The culprits and their motives are, apparently, unknown at this point. But anytime a saint enters the world to serve, risk follows. Ministry means vulnerability, opening oneself to hurt by the very people one seeks to serve. Fear would close off that risk and turn away from the possibility of hurt, but faith pushes one forward, as a light-bearer, into the darkness of ignorance and wrongdoing.
Roberta knew the risks. One site reported that she carried a gun for protection. But sensible precautions can never remove completely the malevolent dangers that shadow one’s steps.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to give his life as a ransom for sin. He calls his followers to give their lives in the course of their service to him. Giving one’s life takes many forms. It may mean the decades-long work in a field far from home. It may mean sacrifice of health, well-being, and goods. It may call for sacrifice of family and friends. Surrendering life may mean a violent and premature end at the hands of the wicked. Heart and body may be broken in service to God.
The human reaction is to feel shocked when the surrendering of life is violent or sudden. Such loss seems senseless. Has the will of heaven been frustrated? Has evil cut short the devotion of saints? Has Satan scored a victory? Can Proverbs 16.4 — Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established — still be true?
No shock was greater than that of the disciples as they watched the Leader being crucified and mocked. Hope in the divine promises was dashed. Aspirations of freedom and glory were doused. Ambitions were shredded with each raspy breath, with each painful groan of the Master.
If Jesus was not the Messiah, then the coming kingdom must be nothing more than a mirage. He could not be the Messiah if this suffering and death were happening to him. Nothing remained but to become fishers of fish again.
As they see suffering and death in their midst, Jesus’ disciples today often think the best thing is to lock themselves behind closed doors and protect themselves from a worsening world. Stay close to home, minimize the risks, avoid the pain. Just go back to the dried-out nets on the shores of Galilee.
With Jesus’ burial, the disciples’ dreams also died a quick and shattering death.
But then the resurrection broke forth. Light appeared. Purpose was restored. Joy flared up in their hearts.
And dawned the discovery that victory comes through suffering, not only for the Master, but for his people as well. The lost are redeemed when the redeemed lose themselves in the mission of the Redeemer. Kingdom pain is truly spiritual gain.
Human perspective is short-sighted. The saints have no idea what God can do through their suffering. Where we have questions, God plans and works and accomplishes. Those spaces and events that seem to us senseless and hopeless are fertile ground for the Lord, a wide open field where his hand tills and eventually harvests.
God’s great tool is the faithfulness of his people. The suffering of the Cross, the suffering for the Cross, continues as the means of salvation in the world. Our heavenly calling is to risk ourselves in that unseen project of faith, to enter into the agony of that invisible purpose of reconciliation.
So the risk is not only a peripheral and dispensable element of the task, but central to the fulfillment of the mission. Our suffering also lies at the heart of the gospel.
Roberta Edwards embraced this mission of risk and, in so doing, embraced the Lord who welcomed her home.
Randal and his wife Vicki have lived and worked in Brazil since Nov. 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He likes to read novels in his back-porch hammock. http://randal.us