A friend who had owned a towing business told me of a terrible accident in which a woman was trapped in a burning car. The flames were too hot for even the suited up fire-rescue personnel to help. Police, firemen, and my friend stood helplessly by while she screamed for someone to please shoot her and relieve her of her misery. Eventually the flames and fumes overcame her, but the trauma was too great for some of the rescuers, who were bent over retching at the side of the road.
Though the pressure to do something was immense, none of them felt that shooting the wounded was the right course of action.
Soldiers on a battlefield face similar situations with hopelessly wounded warriors in excruciating pain pleading for relief from a bullet. Sometimes civilians are wounded and scream for some kind of intervention. Another friend told of a night on a battlefield when he heard the wails of a small girl in unspeakable agony. After hours of hearing her intense cries, the tired and worn soldier felt he could not maintain his sanity and hear any more of the wailing. He found the girl and in his view, mercifully dispatched her. The trouble with such interventions is the long-lasting residual effects. He had trouble looking at little children, even years later. And he was virulently pro-abortion. He made the link himself. His position was consistent with his concept of some kind of killing to lessen the suffering. Here was a wounded man. His wounds were deep and the pain had not been lessened by time.
Look at those who have served in combat with some understanding. They have seen and perhaps have done things that haunt them in the night, sometimes waking them with a violent start. Give some added consideration to our police officers and firefighters. They do more than write tickets and spray water on a flame. Some of them have recollections they wish they could erase. They have wounded memories.
What shall we do when we come in contact with a wounded warrior? It doesn’t help to heap scorn on them, or as Jane Fonda did to troops returning from Viet Nam, to spit on them as they walk by. Years ago I was working with a WW2 veteran. He leaned on his shovel and wanted to talk. He had been a pilot in the South Pacific. Flying over an island that the Japanese had captured, he spotted a man on a bicycle. Assuming he was a friend of the Japanese, he dove towards the unfortunate islander with his guns blazing. As he told me this, fifty years later, tears glistened on his cheeks. Was there really forgiveness for him? He had become a Christian since that event, but it still haunted him.
We laid down our shovels and took him and his past again to the Savior. I had no words of condemnation for him. Rather I encouraged him that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. In fact, Jesus enters into our pain. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (Ps. 69:9).
Don’t miss what Jesus says here. What we have done that brings reproach on God has fallen, not on us as it should, but falls on the Savior. Our sins against God fell on the sinless Son of God! Think about Jesus facing this for the whole world as he knelt at Gethsemane. “When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach” (Ps.69:10).
Some who are reading this will understand the reproach of what others have done falling on you. You didn’t do it. You didn’t agree with it. You tried to stop it. But they did it anyway. And the reproach has fallen on you. There is the reproach of being identified by some connection with the person who brought shame to Christ’s name. There is the reproach of feeling you did not do enough to stop it before it happened. And there is the reproach of others pointing fingers and laying a good amount of the blame at your feet.
How do we deal with such a condition? If we follow the example of Jesus, we will do what is counterintuitive. We will embrace the reproach. We will drink the bitter cup. We will identify with the sinner, not in agreement, nor in collusion, but in pain, for they are in pain. They are suffering, like my friends who years later could not forget war atrocities. They need someone to take on their suffering. Jesus did it. “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
For even Chrst pleased not himself, but as it is written the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (Rom. 15:2,3). So we don’t shoot our wounded. We enter their pain. We take on their reproach. We sit where they sit. We care for their souls. We don’t condemn them but point them to the suffering savior who came to save them.
In taking on reproaches and entering into the pain it produces, we are entering into the sufferings of Christ. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1 Pet. 4:13,14).
How do we rejoice in such pain? Jesus gave us the answer. “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). We have our names written in heaven because Christ died for our sins. It seems that the mockery of the mob heaped more reproach on Him. Why not come down from the cross if You are who You say? Why not call the legion of angels and have them set you free? The reproaches continued. Hell was celebrating. To add to the reproach, Jesus looked heavenward and wondered why God had forsaken Him. But something gave the mockers pause. The sky turned black in the middle of the day. The celebration quieted in that unearthly dark. The centurion understood. “Surely this man was the Son of God,” he confessed. Then Jesus was buried. And because they feared that something might happen out of the ordinary, they made the tomb sure, sealed it, and set a guard. However something happened on Sunday morning. The tomb was empty. Christ had risen! The reproach, the pain, the suffering, the misunderstanding, the hate, all turned to glory.
So when the reproach of them that reproach God falls on us, take it as entering into the sufferings of Christ. Paul’s great desire was, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3:10,11). As surely as the dawn follows night, so suffering is followed by glory.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy trials to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
-“How Firm a Foundation”