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7-29-20 A Message from the Reverend Chuck Alley


A Message from the Reverend Chuck Alley
Rev. Chuck Alley
In view of our present circumstances, I am writing a three-week series on a Christian response to the world. This week we will explore suffering, next week's topic will be human nature, and the final article will deal with community. These three topics form the foundation of Anglican medical ethics.
Suffering is a theme to which we all can relate. It stares us in the face as we wake up each day to the pandemic and social unrest. Through the pandemic we may all suffer differently, but we all suffer. Things are not "right," and we are thrown off our stride by the unknown, the unpredictable, and the socially uncomfortable nature of the disease and our response. Fear, sickness, isolation, and death fill our thoughts as we progress through the day. Concurrent with the pandemic, we are experiencing social unrest, which also brings suffering into our lives-even if only through news outlets and social media. Along with our fear and angst, the protests also make us aware of the suffering of others that we otherwise might not recognize. We have three alternatives when it comes to our response to a suffering. The first is anger. This response is represented by protest and riots in the streets or screeds on social media. The second is expediency. This entails doing what has to be done to get along. Here we find virtue-signaling and denial. Finally, the third response is love. This is not love of the Hallmark variety, but rather the love marked by dying to self. In short, such love calls us to do something for someone else that costs us something.
Anglicanism acknowledges that suffering is concomitant with human life. But it denies that the purpose of suffering is to hurt us. Rather, pain in physical illness is the alarm that notifies us that something is physically wrong, and sends us off to find help. We believe that the same is true for suffering in the spiritual realm. We suffer because we are missing some essential in our lives. That something is a perfect relationship with God. Our fallen nature and that of the world-our separation from God-is the reason behind our suffering. As in physical illness and pain, if there weren't something missing in our lives which we experience as suffering, we would not be alerted to our need for God. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in or pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world" (Chapter 6).

Theologically, we have the same three options for responding to suffering as I listed above (anger, expediency, and love). God, however, revealed how he would have us respond through the Incarnation. God the Son became a man, suffered, was forsaken, and died. For what purpose did he do that? Jesus taught us that he was the way to the Father (John 14:6). Through his suffering and death, we have the opportunity to regain what is missing in our lives-a relationship with God. He also taught us that in order to gain a perfect life with God, we must suffer the loss of our broken life centered on ourselves. The proper response to suffering is again, self-giving love.

7-22-20 A Message from The Reverend "Chuck" Alley
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