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"Tony Robinson is one of the most active church leaders in the United States, greatly in demand as he teaches congregations and denominations about church life. His work has a deep theological underpinning, which many congregational-development gurus don't have."

Fleming Rutledge
author of The Gospel and the New York Times and And God Spoke to Abraham: Preaching from the Old Testament

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Why I Am a Christian

Churches, I’ve observed, tend to be churches of one person of the Trinity or another.

Some are Holy Spirit strong. Others Jesus or Christ-centric. Some more oriented toward God the Creator. I grew up in a tradition, Congregational, that was the third of these: oriented toward God first person of the Trinity, sovereign and transcendant. Jesus was more an example to be followed or emulated, and the Holy Spirit an after-thought.

Of course, with time and maturity that has changed.

But still I remember my response when asked -- as a young adult -- “Why are you a Christian?” I hadn’t yet thought through or been exposed to much theology at this point. I was still shaped by my first person of the Trinity background.

I surprised myself with my answer. I said, “the Cross.”

What did I mean? Why did I go there? What was I thinking? The cross said to me that human suffering is at the center of the Christian faith and of life. Here suffering is not rejected, nor is it treated as failure or aberration. Suffering, in all its dimensions, is embraced. Embraced and held at the center of this faith, this story.

I had, as that young adult I then was, an almost visceral sense of the necessity for any true or compelling faith to somehow face and embrace human suffering. It is so easy to run away from or deny suffering. It is so easy to blame it on the victim. So easy to distance ourselves from suffering and those who suffer.

But the cross did not do any of that. Without words, the cross said to me that God embraces suffering, as a part of the human experience or condition. And God embraces those who suffer -- which is all of us.

This is Holy Week. Some will, as the preacher at our church said Sunday, “pole-vault” from the “triumphal entry” story of Palm Sunday to a triumphal Easter Sunday -- skipping over what is in-between. But it’s the in-between that, as a young man and still today, rings true for me. Suffering faced. Suffering held. Suffering embraced.

The point is not go seeking suffering. Nor is the point that the more you suffer the better you are.

The point is that this “negative” part of the human condition is embraced, given meaning and so redeemed in the cross. May yours be a blessed Holy Week.

 

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